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* I have been at a great feast, and stolen the scraps." 

Lovis Labor Lost. — Shaks. 

*^ . . various, that the mind 
Of desultory man, studious of change, 
And pleased with novelty, might be indulged." 

The 7Vw>t.— CowpER 







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Press of 

G. P. PuTNAM*s Sons 

New York 

May 1913 

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"The notes of a single observer, even in a limited district, describing 
accurately its features, civil, natural and social, are of more interest, and 
often of more value, than the grander view and broader generalizations of 

" In a country whose character and circumstances are constantly changing, 
the little facts and incidents, which are the life of history, soon pass from 
the minds even of the present generation.'* — Anon. 


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THE writer came to Michigan, a youth, in the spring 
of 1835, and settled in the town of Springwells, 
two miles from the western limits of Detroit, then a city 
of less than 5000 inhabitants. On or near the spot of his 
first abode, upon the banks of our noble river, he has 
dwelt for half a century, and until the spreading city has 
absorbed the intervening farms. 

Even a few years ago his present residence was so 
completely in the country, that the familiar rural sights 
and sounds were but little banished. The influences 
thus surrounding him are visible in many of the essays 
which make up this book, and which are in part compiled 
from his Diary. 

Such are the chapters upon the seasons and upon the 
inhabitants, human and brute, of the neighborhood. Of 
the other papers, some will be recognized as having been 
read before the Detroit Scientific Association, and State 
and County Pioneer societies, and some have already 
received publication in newspapers and pioneer col- 

In the essays upon climate, the author ventures to 
believe, will be found something of merit, in the way of 
original observation and research. The character of our 
seasons he has endeavored to portray, less by attempt 
at vivid description, than by the plain statement of 
facts. Anything really new, on subjects of such univer- 
sal interest, may prove of more than local value. 



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The reflection that many of these memorials may pos- j 
sess a value, at least in the eyes of partial friends — alas ! I 
how few now — and may serve a purpose in the preser- ^ 
vation of facts and phenomena which are fast being lost 
with the rapidly passing years, has been the induce- 
ment to their compilation into a volume. ♦ 

B. H. 

ViNEWOOD, December y 1886. 

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Go forth, little book, bark of destiny, freighted with the records and 
recollections of many desultory hours. Take thy chance upon the stream 
which sweeps all things along. Pleasing to the writer has been his task, 
and little will he take account with fate, whether favoring winds waft thee 
into a friendly port, or the wayward current drift thee aside, to be stranded 
on the shallows of oblivion. 


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Scenery of the Lakes — 1-18 

Charlevoix, Description of Voyage, 2. — The Lake Plateaus, 3. 
— ^The two Peninsulas, topography, 5. — Romance of Early 
Travel, 7. — ^The Ocean Lake, 9. — The Straits, before and after 
Colonization, 12.— River Scenery, 15. 

Lake Superior in 1840 10-62 

The Exploring Party, 21. — ^The Route — Mackinac, 23. — Straits 
of Ste. Marie, 24.— At the Sault, 28. — Coasting, 31. — The Grand 
Sable, 32. — Pictured Rocks, 36. — Azoic and Mineral Region, 
49. — Adventure at the Ontonagon, 53. — La Pointe — Pcre Mar- 
quette, 59. 

A Michigan Geological Expedition in 1837 63-90 

The Party Introduced, 65. — The Wagon Journey, 67. — River 
Voyaging, 69. — Descending the Shiawassee — Indian Clearings, 
70. — A Primeval Forest, 72. — Saginaw. 75. — Personnel — Dr. 
Houghton — Our Fourth Member, 76. — The Tittabawassee — 
Midland Solitudes, 80. — The Solitude Broken, 83. — Descend- 
ing the Saginaw, 84. — Coasting the Bay, 85. — Canoe Voyaging 
on Lake Huron, 87. 


Time of Universal Prosperity, and what came of it.... 91-105 
A new Eldorado, 93. — Landlooking, 95. — Eligible Sites — Paper 
Cities, 96.— Flush Times, 97.— Wild-cat Banking, 98.— Hard 
Times, 100. — Ruins, loi. — Reverses, 103. — Restoration, 105. 



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French Habitants of the Detroit 107-154 

Part I. — Introductory, 109. — The old Regime, no. — Coloniza- 
tion, 113. — The Detroit, 115. — Land-titles and Farms, 116. — 
First Settlers, 117. — Agriculture, 119.— Farm Implements, 121. 
—Vehicles, 122. — Canadian Ponies, 124. — Orchards, 125. — 
Pear Trees, 127. 

Part II. — French Homesteads, 131.— Windmills, 135.— Cos- 
tumes,. 136. — Society — Amusements. 139. — White-fishing, 142. 
— Patriotism, 143.— Education, 146. — Language, 149.— Voy- 
ageurs, 150. — Boat Songs, 152. 

The Naming of Lake Ste. Claire '55-175 

Second Centennial Anniversary, 156. — Historical Address, 157. 
— Le Sieur de la Salle — His earlier Expeditions, 158. — First 
Knowledge of the Straits — Incidents, 159. — First Sail-vessel on 
the Lakes, 162.— The "Griffin" arrives at Lake Ste. Claire, 
163. — Origin of the name of the Lake, 164.— The Lady Claire, 
165. — The Christening — Surroundings, 166. — ^Fate of the 
Griffin, 169. — New Schemes of La Salle, 170. — Discovery of 
Louisiana, 171. — Death and character of La Salle. 173. — Hon- 
ors to his Memory — A Suggestion, 174. 

Indians in Michigan 177-187 

Aboriginal population, 179. — Chippewas of Saginaw, 181. — 
Pottawatomies and Ottawas, 183. — Trading — Fire-water, 184. 
— Civilized Ottawas, 185. 

Policy of the Government towards the Indians 187-198 

Indian Titles— Treaties, 188.— Indian Character, 189.— De- 
mands of Civilization, 190. — Reservations — Agencies, 192. — 
Errors in Policy, 193. — Indian Capacity for Civilization, 194. 
— True Policy, 195. — The Consummation, 197. 

The Mound-Builders in Michigan 199-261 

Part I. — General Character and Distribution of the Works, 201. 
— Defensive Works, 203. — Circular Works, 205. — Tumuli, 206. 
— Modes of Burial — Entombing, 208. — Monument Mounds, 
210. — Contents of the Mounds, 211. — Pottery, ^13. 

Part II. — Indian Antiquities at Springwells, 219. — Tumuli at 
the Sand-hills, 220. — Exploration — Contents, 222. — Intrusive 
Burials, 224. — Carsten*s Mound, 226. — Circular Earthwork, 


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227. — The Great Mound at River Rouge, 228. — Festival of the 
Dead, 231. — Cremation, 233. — Modern Occupation, 234. — Ex- 
ploration of the Mound, 234. — ^A Vast Necropolis, 237. — Past 
and Present, 238. 

Part III — Ancient Garden-beds of Michigan, 241. — Earliest 
Notice, 243. — Classification, 245. — Beds at Three Rivers, 247.^ 
Kalamazoo, 248. — Prairie Ronde, 249. — Gardencsque Plats, 
250. — Botanical Gardens, 251. — Association with other Earth- 
works, 252. — Origin and Age — Conjectures, 253. — Later Inves- 
tigations, 254. 


Fish and Fishing 263-277 

Pole and Line, 265. — Prosaic Modes, 266. — Seine Fishing, 268. 
— On the Upper Lakes, 269. — Whitefish — Life History, 272. 
— Lake and River Trade, 275. — ^The Fishing Season, 276. 

Birds of my Neighborhood 279-320 

Part I.— Aquatic Birds, 281.— Gregarious Birds, 285.— Black- 
birds, 286.— Wild Turkeys, 288.— -Birds of Prey, 289.— Winter 
Birds— Harbingers of Spring, 290. — Wild Birds Domesticated, 
293. — A Good Talker, 294. 

Part II. — Our Birds Further Considered, 297.— The Crow, 
299. — A Black Parliament, 303. — Crow Character, 305.— The 
Turkey, as our National Emblem, 306. — A Pigeon Roost, 
307. — Our Northern Mocking-birds, 310.— Song-birds — Game 
Laws, 312. — Birds as Insect Destroyers, 313.— The European 
Sparrow, 316. — Bird ways, 317.— Bird Gratitude, 319. 

Four-footed Inhabitants 321-343 

Predatory Animals, 323. — The .Wolverine, 325. — Nut Collec- 
tors, 327. — Deers, Wild and Tame, 330. — Traits of Domesti- 
cated Animals, 333. — Free Commoners, — ^Veto, 335. — Medoc 
— Dash — A capacious mouth, 337. — Dog Chat, 338. — Con- 
cerning Cats — Nora, 339. — Tom and Jerry, — ^A Music-lover, 

Wild Animals of Michigan 345-367 

Our existing Mammalia, 347.— Plantigrades, 348. — Carnivores, 


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350.— Rodents, 353.— Ruminants, 356.— Animals Formerly 
Abounding, 359. — Trapping — The trade in Furs, 360. 

The Beaver, 361-367 

Beaver-made Country, 362. — As an Engineer, 365. — His Social 
Qualities, 366. 

Trees,— Their Relations to us. Economic and Scientific. 369-388 
Our Forests a Century ago, 371.— Results of Settlement, 373. 
—Forest Destruction, 374.— Fencing— Fuel— Clearings- 
Lumbering— Forest Fires, 375.— Relations to Climate, 377.— 
Results of Forest Removal, 379.— Old World Experiences, 380. 
— New World Experiences, 382.— Forest Economy— Home 
Efforts, 385.- Legislation— Fencing in of Stock, 386.— Plant- 
ing, 388. 

Trees, in their Social Relations 389-415 

Natural Forms, — Individual Expression, 39i.-Whitewood, 393. 
Maple, 394. — Ash, 395. — Linden, 396. — Sycamore, 397. — 
Beech, 3^.— Birch, 399.— Oak, 400. — Walnut, 401 .—Chestnut 
—Poplar, 403. — Pepperidge— Willows, 404. — Elm, 406. — Ever- 
greens, 408. — Rapid Tree Growth, 409. — Planting Roadways, 
410. — Trees as Scavengers, 411. — Hostility to Trees, 412.^ 
Sylvan Spirits, — Classic Fancies, 413. — ^Trees as Friends, 415. 


Climate of Detroit and the Lake Region. Part 1 4x7-450 

The Controlling Element — Isotherms, 421. — The Lake 
Region a Plateau, 425. — Temperature as Modified by the 
Lakes, 426. — Our Seasons — Comparisons, 429. — Prevailing 
Winds — The Michigan Fruit Region, 430. — Rainfall — Sources, 
432. — As Controlled by the Seasons, 435. — Maximum and 
Minimum Tendencies, 437. — Monthly Precipitation, United 
States, 438. — Maximum and Minimum Years of Rainfall, 440. 
— General Survey of our Seasons, 442. — Comparisons — Con- 
trasts, 444. — Weather Predicates, 445. — Natural Classifica- 
tion of our Seasons, 447. — Peculiarities of our Climate — 
Advantages, 448. 

Part II. — Additional Observations 452-461 

Temperature and Rainfall since 1874, 452- — Mean Temperature 


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and Rainfall of the Seasons,— 1835 to 1886, 454.— Season 
Fluctuations, Maximum and Minimum Years, 456.— Grouping 
of Years, 458. — Annual Fluctuations— Reign of Law, 459. 

Part III.— Periodical Changes in the Lake Levels, Rain- 
fall, Temperature and Sun-spots, and their Relations 

TO each other 460-482 

Lake Fluctuations, 461.— Periodical Variations, 462.— Lake 
Erie Fluctuations prior to 1838, 464.— High and Low Levels, 
465.— Periodicities, 467.— Temperature and Rainfall Curves, 
469.— Sun-spot and Lake Curves,— 1769-1834, 470.— Curves 
of Sun-spots, Temperature, Rainfall and Lake, 1834-1886, 
473.__Relationships, 476.— Times of Increase and Decrease, 
477.— Summary, 478.— A Meteorological Horoscope, 479. 

The Winter Season 483-5^7 

Ordinary Features, 485.— Mild and Open Winters, 487.— Class- 
ification, 490.— Cold and Snowy Winters, 491.— Storms of 
Wintry Time, 493.— Phenomenal Cold, 495.— Unclassifiable 
Winters, 496.— A Violent Reversal, 498.— A Typical Season, 
4g9.-_Forest Occupations, 501.— Visit to the Pine Woods, 
503. — Winter Enjoyments, 504. 

Spring-tide 509-524 

Characteristic Weather, 511.— Floods, 513.— Transitions- 
Vicissitudes, 515.— Contrasts, 517.— English Springs, 518.— 
Indications, 519. — A Spring Morning, 520. — Gifts of Spring 
—Flowers— Tints, 521.— Progress, 524.— A Typical Season, 

Our Summers 529-551 

Realization, 511. — Tropical Characters, 532. — Insect Life, 534. 
— Voices of the Night, 535. — Moonlight, 536. — Heated Terms, 
537.— Summer Storms, 539.— Gales —Extremes —Frosts, 
541' — A Typical Season, 543. — Compensations, 545. — Enjoy- 
ment of Summer, 546. — Cloud-land, 547. — Sunsets, 548. — 
Close of Day, 550. 

Autumn Time 553-57^ 

Before the Frosts, 555. — After the Frosts, 556. — Indian Sum- 


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xiv COlTfEJ^TS, 

mer, 558. — Phenomenal Seasons, 561. — Dry Seasons, 562.— 
Effects of Drought — Fires — Frosts, 563. — ^A very Dry Year, 
565. — Normal Seasons, 567,— A Typical Autumn, 568. 

The Ripening of the Year 573-S8i 

Autumnal Changes, 575. — Progress — Tree Liveries, 576. — 
Contrasts — Shrub Tints, 579. — Nature as a Color Painter, 



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View on Detroit River from Old Knaggs House, Wind-mill Point, 

Springwells (looking up), 1837 Frontispiece. 

Old Knaggs House (author's early residence) 17 

Sault Ste. Marie, in 1840 29 

Grandes Sables, from the Lake 33 

Grandes Sables, from above '. 35 

The Pictured Rocks, distant view 37 

La Portaille 41 

Gothic Rock 43 

La Chapelle, from the Lake 45 

La Chapelle, from within 47 

View from the Cliff Range 51 

Falls at mouth of Montreal River 57 

P^e Marquette, from the Statue, City Hall, Detroit ' 61 


French Voyageur, from oil portrait, Montreal, 1835 '^ 

French Plough of the olden time 120 

French Carryall (carriole) 121 

French Pony Cart . 123 

French Pear Trees, Detroit River 130 

Old Clergy-House, Sandwich 134 

French Summer Costume (man) 136 

French Summer Costume (woman) 137 

French Winter Costume (man) , . . ; 138 

French Winter Costume (woman) 139 

The Griffin, — First Sailing-vessel on the Lakes 163 

La Salle, from Statue at City Hall, Detroit 175 

Diagram of Ancient Earthworks, Macomb County 202 

Pottery from Mounds at Grand Rapids 214 


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Pottery from Mounds, Wayne County 218 

Diagram of Ancient Earthworks, Springwells 22 1 

The Great Mound at River Rouge 230 

Ancient Garden-beds, Grand River Valley 257 

Ancient Garden-beds, St. Joseph River Valley 258 

Ancient Garden-beds, Western Michigan . . 259 

Ancient Garden-beds, Kalamazoo County 260 

Ancient Garden-beds, Prairie Ronde 261 

Ancient Garden-beds (wheel-shaped), Kalamazoo 261 


Trees in Winter : — Whitewood 394 

A Forest Whitewood 395 

Maple 396 

Ash 397 

Linden 398 

Sycamore 399 

Beech 400 

Birch 401 

White Oak 402 

Black Walnut 403 

Hickory 404 

Cotton-wood Poplar 405 

Pepperidge 406 

Young Pepperidge 407 

White (American) Elm 409 


Chart of Isothermal lines, showing influence of the Lakes upon Tem- 
perature 420 

Diagram, showing Monthly Precipitation, United States 439 

Diagram, showing Annual Rainfall, Detroit, 1835-1886 451 

Diagram, showing Mean Annual and Summer and Winter Temperature 

and Rainfall, Detroit • 457 

Diagram (No. i) showing Curves of the Sun-spots, and Lake Erie 

Levels, 1769-1834 460 

Diagram (No. 2) showing Curves of the Lake Levels, Rainfall, Tem- 
perature and Sun-spots, 1834-1886 466 

Winter morning in a Michigan lumber camp 502 


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" Were we always to sail as I did then, with a serene sky in a most 
charming climate, and on water as clear as that of the purest fountain ; . 
were we sure of finding everywhere secure and agreeable places to pass the 
night in, where we might enjoy the pleasure of hunting at a small expense, 
breathe at our ease the purest air, and enjoy the prospect of the finest 
countries in the universe, we might possibly be tempted to travel to the end 
of our days. • 

** Each day a new situation, chosen at pleasure ; a neat, commodious house, 
built and furnished with all necessaries, in less than a quarter of an hour, 
with a pavement of flowers springing up on a carpet of the most beautiful 
green ; on all sides sintple and natural beauties, unadulterated and inimita- 
ble by any art. If these pleasures suffer a little interruption, whether by 
hard weather or some unforeseen accident, it is only to render them more 
sensibly felt at a second enjoyment." — Cha&levoix, Description of a voyage 
to the Detroit of Lake Erie, 172 1, 


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FROM the great Appalachian chain — the mountain 
region that determines the course of the rivers 
which fall into the Atlantic on the one side and the Mis- 
sissippi on the other — the traveller, bound westward, 
passes abruptly into the immense valley of the Missis- 
sippi, and northerly into the famous ** Basin of the 
Lakes,'* as termed by geographers. 

But this term is a misnomer, for, like most fresh-water 
lakes, these bodies of water occupy an elevated plateau ; 
the summit, in fact, of the vast expanse of land which 
spreads out between the AUeghanies and the Rocky 
Mountains. No large streams flow into them, and they 
drain very limited areas. On the contrary, the Ohio, the 
Wabash, and other large tributaries of the great Missis- 
sippi, have their sources within a few miles of the lake 
borders, yet drain into the Southern Gulf, while the great 
rivers of British America, commencing near the lakes, 
have their outlets in the northern seas. The magnificent 
St. Lawrence alone, finding its supply in these sources, 
pursues its eastward way to the Atlantic. 

Each lake, it is true, has its separate and deep basin, 
or, more properly, chasm. But, unlike lakes set in the 
gorges of mountain regions, or streams which collect the 
drainage of large valleys, these basins are always full to 
the brim, yet never overflow. No sudden rise of the 
waters ever swells to destructive floods ; a difference of a 



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few feet only being the entire change of level which is 
occasioned by the extremes of the seasons or the most 
copious rains and thaws. 

The great American lakes may well be considered a 
distinguishing feature of this continent. They occupy 
nearly one hundred thousand square miles of its surface, 
and contain more than one half of all the fresh water on 
the globe. 

Lake Erie is shallow, the mean depth probably not 
much exceeding lOO feet. But the chasms filled by the 
lakes above are, in places, 900 to 1000 feet deep ; so that 
while their surfaces range from 232 feet above the ocean 
— the level of Lake Ontario — to 603 feet — the level of 
Lake Superior — their bottoms are far below the level of 
the sea. 

From the level of the chief of the lakes, each surface 
below falls by steps ; the water either passing over cata- 
racts, or by swift currents through the connecting chan- 
nels. Lakes Huron and Michigan are on nearly one 
level, 25 feet below Lake Superior; Erie is 13 feet below' 
the level of Huron, and Ontario, by the grand cataract 
and rapids of Niagara, is brought to a still lower descent 
of 333 feet. 

With the exception of Lake Superior, the lake borders 
are marked by no lofty or rugged cliffs. The lower 
peninsula of Michigan, bordered by three of the great 
lakes, partakes of the general undulating character of the 
Mississippi valley; nowhere rising into mountains nor 
sinking into deep valleys. In the southerly half, swells 
of land composing its water-shed attain to from 300 to 
600 feet above Lake'*Erie, and occasionally, rounded knobs 
rise a hundred feet above the surrounding elevations. 
The northerly half is more elevated, the general water- 


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shed being 700 or 800 feet, and near Otsego Lake rising 
to 1 100 feet above Lake Erie. 

From these water-sheds the surface descends by 
steppes, or inclines, uniformly to the margin of the lakes. 
A belt of flat, heavily-wooded country, underlaid with 
clay, borders the eastern side ; while Lake Michigan is 
margined by steep bluffs of sand. 

Beyond these border tracts a varied surface is pre- 
sented of alternating timbered lands and openings, of 
flat and rolling surfaces, with numerous lakes and 
marshes. These are the unfailing sources of many deep 
streams of clear water. 

In the southern part of the State a few rolling prairies 
occur, the largest being 18 miles in length, — the prelude 
to the more magnificent prairie country of Illinois and 
the regions beyond. 

The rocks of this peninsula belong to the carbonifer- 
ous and devonian systems, and are all deeply covered 
with the drift of the glacial epoch. It is a country of 
mingled gravels, sands and clays, covering the rocks — 
which seldom outcrop — to a depth often of several hun- 
dred feet ; and from these the soils are derived. 

Little of the peninsula scenery partakes of the grand- 
eur of primitive and broken districts, but it combines 
the variety — so essential in a landscape — of woodland, 
glade, and water in a manner which often seems the 
result of art, but which is not less truly inimitable. 

The character of the ** openings " is that of a majestic 
orchard of oaks and hickories, varied by small prairies, 
grassy lawns, and clear lakes. They resemble those 
exquisite pictures of park scenery, where the vision 
roams amid groups of lofty oaks and over open glades 
gemmed with flowers ; while the distant woodland bounds 


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the horizon, and the velvet-skirted lake reflects the light 
from the open prairie, or is faintly visible from the 
bosom of the glen. 

Such scenes are destitute of the majesty of mountain 
aspects, but they have that pervading, tranquil beauty 
which forsakes the lofty hill-side and the hoary cliff. 
They present Nature in her simple loveliness, without 
her sterner aspect and masculine attire. 

Of the character of our wooded districts I propose to 
speak elsewhere. 

The topographical features of the upper peninsula of 
Michigan are very different from those of the lower, 
and correspond to its different geological character. A 
large part of the country is rough and broken, though 
it nowhere composes very elevated mountain chains. 
Rocks of the silurian and paleozoic systems make fre- 
quent outcrops, and rise into steep ledges and sharp 
peaks. In the Huron and Porcupine mountains they 
attain heights of looo to 1300 feet above Lake Superior. 
These consist of ranges of broken hills and knobs, often 
mere naked granite rock, bare of timber, while the valleys 
between are heavily timbered and fertile. 

The lake coast presents a succession of bold and rocky 
cliffs, with leaping streams and dunes of sand, which give 
many strange and wild features to the scenery of that 
wonderful region ; wonderful no less in these, than in its 
mineral riches. Some of these features I propose to 
notice hereafter. 

Though the country of the lower lakes lacks so much 
of the grand and picturesque of mountain scenery,, it has 
never failed to excite the enthusiastic admiration of the 

No doubt much of the interest which was expressed by 


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the first explorers is of that romantic character which 
belongs to a region imperfectly known, and which in the 
relations of these early voyageurs abounded in marvels. 
By them the lake scenery was beheld under circumstances 
very different from those which surround the modem 

The remoteness from the ordinary range of travel ; the 
novel mode of conveyance ; the intercourse with Nature 
in her secret haunts; the freedom from the thousand 
cares of the busy world, which is felt in her qntrimmed 
forests and upon her heaving waters, — these, to the un- 
accustomed wanderer, are replete with a rapturous de- 
light, and invest these scenes with a charm apart from 
their intrinsic interest. All this, too, is aided by the 
strengthened nerve and vigorous health which are engen- 
dered by constant exercise and exposure to pure air. 
No wonder that the early voyageurs in this region were 
thus inspired, and often dwelt with enthusiasm even on 
ordinary scenes. 

They stepped into the light canoe and were afloat upon 
a tide, to the sight boundless as the ocean, but fresh, pure 
and transparent as ether. They made their way under a 
variety of incidents; with difficulty escaped the rising 
gale, and at night encamped upon the beach, where the 
breaking surf lulled them to sleep ; or they sought shel- 
ter in the tall forest, and listened to the roar of the night 
wind in the pine tops. 

Day after day, month after month, they continued to 
traverse the shores, without finding the bounds of these 
vast fresh-water seas. At one time the shores presented 
only a dark mass of evergreens, where the tangled cedar 
spread its innumerable boughs, and the fir shot up its 
straight, sharp cone. At another, the sight pierced 


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through vistas of openings, disclosing beyond inviting 
prospects. Again, huge walls of rock reared a threaten- 
ing front, caverns yawned beneath, and lofty hills, rock- 
ribbed, rose beyond. They picked up on. the shores 
many curious minerals, precious stones, polished by the 
waves, beautiful agates, and metallic ores, among which 
were large pieces of native copper. They found that the 
savages regarded some of these things with reverence, 
and eager curiosity pictured a world of hidden wonders. 

It was my fortune to traverse these great inland seas in 
almost the precise manner of those first explorers, and to 
drink at the same sources of inspiration. Even now, 
when a few days may suffice to convey the traveller from 
one end to the other, seeing little of that which is most 
worthy his observation, so little change have time and 
the advance of a vigorous race wrought in the features of 
many parts of the coast scenery, that were the modern 
tourist to visit these in the only mode possible for obtain- 
ing a correct conception, — a coasting voyage in a small 
boat, — he would find little occasion to reverse those early 
impressions. He would be- surrounded by almost the 
same solitude and wildness. 

There is a sublimity about these vast fresh-water seas 
which is hardly exceeded by the ocean itself. Lake 
Superior is 400 miles long, and covers an area of 30,000 
square miles. Standing on its shore the eye can em- 
brace not a thousandth part of its surface ; yet to the 
view this small part is a boundless horizon, united only 
to the sky. 

The water of this lake and of those immediately below 
is of amazing purity and transparency. This is attrib- 
utable to their rocky beds and the nature of the border- 
ing country, from which so little impurity finds its way. 


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" The water,** writes one of the early journalizers, " was 
as pure and transparent as air, and my canoe seemed as 
if it hung suspended in that element. It was impossible 
to look attentively through this limpid medium at the 
rocks below without finding, before many minutes, your 
head swim, and your eyes no longer able to behold the 
dazzling scene/* 

From the great extent of surface exposed to so many 
conflicting winds, the waters in these great basins are 
seldom quiet. This is especially the case with Lake 
Superior, which may be styled — par excellence — "the 
ocean lake/* 

For some time previous to a gale, even when no wind 
is perceptible, I have seen its surface agitated by tremen- 
dous swells, and the waves ** heave their sharp, white 
helmets ** on the dark surface. At times, when calm and 
glassy, a long, dark line may be observed advancing rap- 
idly, and of a sudden the wind begins to freshen, and 
finally to blow with vehemence. It is the coming on of 
the tempest. The dark line is the vanguard of an army 
of waves, which soon swell into enormous billows and 
hiss with gathered foam. Owing to the suddenness with 
which these storms arise, the navigation for canoes and 
boats is rendered peculiarly hazardous. 

The effect of the frequent storms and the almost con- 
stant agitation of the water is very observable upon the 
coast. Where this consists of rock, as is the general case, 
particularly if it be sandstone, an abrading process is 
going on, which occasions huge, cavernous fissures, ex- 
tending to a height often of many feet above the water 
level, rounded columns, supporting battlements of rock, 
and a thousand fantastic forms. 

We regard rock as the basis of what we are adcus- 


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tomed to designate as the "everlasting hills/* but the 
power of the liquid element is so gradually extending its 
dominion, that these so-called " sure foundations *' pre- 
sent but a feeble obstacle to its violence. It is only in 
the resistance offered by the proverbially "shifting** 
aands that an enduring barrier is found to the fury of 
the storms. 

Many miles of the southern shore, near the eastern end 
of the lake, consist of broad sand beaches, and the phe- 
nomena of the sea, as I have there witnessed them, are 
sublime beyond description. Far abroad the white-caps 
are seen enlivening the dark blue surface ; but as the gale 
sweeps over the broad expanse, and piles the waters up 
on the opposing shore, the power of the sea, compressed 
by the shallow spape allowed it, raises huge columns of 
breakers, which tuipble impetuously toward the beach. 
The line of gathering waves is seen far out, increasing 
into one long, uplifjted billow, that passes majestically on, 
each moment raisirig higher its threatening crest, until, no 
longer able to sustain the accumulated weight, its mar- 
gin bends smoothly forward, as if rushing over a preci- 
pice, then comes thundering down in a tremendous sheet 
of foam and flying spray, tearing up the sands with a 
roar that seems to shake the coast. Broken in its majes- 
tic march, it now spreads into lesser breakers, and sweeps, 
foaming, high up the beach. Between the successive 
ridges the liquid element seems to be drawn away, recoil- 
ing from the shoaling sands, and adding height and vio- 
lence to the accumulating mass. The surf from these 
breakers is thrown to a great distance up the beach, de- 
positing its suspended sand, and then as instantly re- 
cedes, to await the next succeeding lash. It is these 
breaking surges, with their surf and smothering spray, 


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that are so dangerous to stranded vessels, and that often 
overwhelm boats in their landing which had outlived, 
until that moment, the whole violence of the storm. 

The sublimity of this scene is enhanced by the con- 
tinued roar that accompanies it. This is not alone the 
dash of the waters, however loud. Distinct from the 
rush of waves and howling of the wind is a deep, Bass 
undertone, — the lowest conceivable note in the music of 
nature, — distinct, incessant, prolonged, filling up every 
pause in the awful harmony. The first resembles the 
roar of the wind in the storm-tossed forest ; the dread 
lower tone is like that which is heard at Niagara, and 
seems to be produced by a similar cause, the concussion 
of falling waters. 

If, as poets tell us, nature is full of melodies, through 
all her works are hidden cords that vibrate to the music 
of the spheres, — strange, deep harmonies that haunt the 
breast of the woodland ; the wind's low sigh ; the voice 
which gushes forth " in concord of sweet sounds '* from 
animated nature : if there is music in the rippling wave 
and the dashing surge, and even the voiceless sands and 
dropping caves fill the soul with its eloquence, how 
more sublime a melody in the deep bass of the tempest, 
and the rush of the thousand battalions of its army of 
resistless waters ! 

The natural beauty of "the Detroit,** as the "straits 
of Erie and Huron " were named by the Jesuit mission- 
aries, — the first white men that set foot in this region, — 
had been recorded with many words of admiration, long 
before the day of its colonization. No hills bounded the 
vision. In many places even the shores spread into wide 
marshes. But all was on a scale of magnificence to 
which they were unaccustomed. The banks were densely 


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clothed with fresh timber, such as dwarfed all that the 
Old World afforded. The straits — though its strong cur- 
rent might claim for it the name of Hver — varied in 
width from one to five miles, and was adorned with many- 
green islands, of which the largest was twelve miles in 
length. Beasts and birds of rare and curious aspect were 
numerous and tame. Fish of novel kinds and unequalled 
flavor sported in the waters. Fruits of many sorts and 
in unexampled abundance grew within sight and reach. 
Everywhere Nature had spread a feast for all her chil- 
dren, such as she grants only to the most fortunate. 

After the first white settlements had been established, 
and before Christian nations had contended here for em- 
pire, the country was not greatly changed. A half cent- 
ury of French occupation had not felled the wide-spread- 
ing forests, which remained untouched, except upon the 
immediate border of the stream. But here the colonists 
had strung together their hamlets, almost in a continuous 
village, for many miles, with their little fields and pick- 
eted gardens, their orchards and windmills. The single 
street followed all the windings of the shore, avoiding 
only the marshes, and usurping the well-chosen sites of 
the Indian villages. From a central position Fort Pon- 
chartrain frowned its rude protection. 

The quiet, Arcadian character of the settlements upon 
the Detroit had been but little affected by political 
changes and transfers of sovereignty, even so late as 
when it became the home of the writer, in 1835. Let me 
describe the river scenery as it then appeared. 

Although Detroit had grown from a mere stockade 
into a modernized and thriving town, and an energetic 
class of emigrants had begun to penetrate the interior, 
the rural character of these straits had undergone but 


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little change. The main roads still ran along the banks, 
lined with the same kind of habitations, in most cases the 
very same, that were built there more than a century be- 
fore. Their possessors were still mainly French, though 
a few farms had changed ownership, and a somewhat 
larger extent of fields and meadows had infringed upon 
the ancient forest. 

On the British side of the channel, tasteful English cot- 
tages, with green verandas, intermingled with the brown 
domiciles of the French Canadian, and gave additional 
charm to its rural character. 

The view from the water front of my homestead of 
half a century ago — known as " Windmill Point *' — was 
both beautiful and animating. The noble stream, which 
has pursued a nearly westerly course from the Lake Ste. 
Claire, here bends southerly, and is contracted to three- 
fourths of a mile in width. Owing to the change in the 
trend of the shore, this point commands a very extended 
view, of which my frontispiece will give some idea. 

Looking eastward is seen forest-crowned Isle au Cochon 
(since endowed with the more euphonious name of Belle 
Isle) two miles above the city, and occupying the centre 
of the stream.' The view embraces bot«h channels. On 
the south side, the main channel carries the vision onward 
to the horizon of Lake Ste. Claire, and to Peach Island, 
the once stronghold of Pontiac. Fronting the northerly 
channel, lower down, are conspicuous the brick walls and 
glittering spires of the "City of the Straits.** 

Following along down stream we discover, on the im- 
mediate shore, posts and reels, indicating a fishery, white- 
fish being at that time largely taken in our river. 

Turning the eye down the stream, the widening chan- 
nel, visible for nearly twenty miles, terminates in the 

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passage between Grosse Isle and the main land on the 
west, the easterly channel and Lake Erie being shut 
from view by a wooded point on the Canada shore. The 
stream, broadened to five miles in width, gives to view 
Fighting Island, the scene of a savage massacre in the 
old war times, and many small grassy isles, marked by 
lighthouses and the huts of fishermen. 

The view across the water embraces her Majesty's do- 
minion for a continuous coast-line of thirty miles. The 
spruce town of Windsor is seen opposite its larger Amer- 
ican rival, and contrasts strikingly with the gray and 
sleepy old village of Sandwich, a few miles lower down. 

The banks on both sides of this narrowed portion of 
the strait are bold, and present, in many places, steep cliffs 
of twenty to thirty feet elevation. 

Between these two villages stands the old Huron 
Church, a monument of the olden times of French su- 
premacy, and a building of considerable size and archi- 
tectural pretension for those days.* Its decaying walls 
are propped by poles, and on the open area in front is 
planted a high wooden cross. It carries the mental view 
backward to those halcyon days of simplicity and half 
feudal domination, when the lord of the demesne re- 
quired a May-pole to be planted annually before his 
door i when the practical had not banished the poetical ; 
and when religious ceremonies constituted one of the 
chief pleasures of the people. 

Among the farm-houses and cottages which line the 
banks, those of the times of the French regime still pre- 
dominate. From embowering orchards, immense pear 

* In these days of unrespect, this church has been torn down, and has 
given place to a brick, gothic cathedral, with an episcopal palace, and the 
college buildings of St. Benedict, 


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trees rear their heads, like great elms, or stand in groups 
upon the banks. Several windmills give animation to 
the picture, as their white arms sway in the breeze, 
that seldom fails to ripple these waters, like the pinions 
of some huge birds. 

One of those picturesque structures — the only one in 
sight on the American side — occupies a low, sandy point 
in our front, and is a conspicuous object in the foreground 
of my picture. It is built of timber, the lower story 
being filled in and encased with stone. Though the best 
of all the structures of its kind upon the river, it lays no 
claim to having been the manor windmill, to which, in 
the earlier days, the settler was required to carry his 

The recently created and already immense commerce 
of the lakes has brought into being many lines of steam 
and sailing vessels, which ply daily through the Straits. 

Sometimes a crowd of the latter meet at the turn of 
the river, a little below, awaiting a change of wind ; and 
it is a spectacle most beautiful and inspiriting, when all 
at once, their wings spread to the favoring breeze, they 
glide past, a magnificent group, on their way to the 
neighboring port. 

Gulls glancing to and fro, with their long emulous 
wings, give additional life to the scene ; while in a higher 
zone, flocks of wild ducks and geese are winging their 
way up, their undeviating, swift and steady flight casting 
contempt upon those duller-winged sailor craft so far be- 

♦These mills have long since been disused, and all have now (1885) dis- 

t It is one of the singular mutabilities of civilized progress, that the noble 
class of passenger steamers — equal in all appointments to the finest now on 


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While the vernal beauty of this region of wide waters 
and boundless forests is so often dwelt upon, it does not 
appear that the impression of tameness or defect is pro- 
duced by the absence of mountain and rock, and the 
general level which everywhere meets the eye. 

There is a grandeur in Alpine scenery which is elevat- 
ing to the soul, but this also has its own claim to sub- 
limity. All the parts which compose it are congruous. 
Land and water are in harmony. These lakes, like the 
ocean, give the impress of boundlessness, and lake, forest, 
and prairie unite to form 

" a fitting floor 
For this magnificent temple of the sky," 

Nor is variety wanting. The watery surface is never 
still and tame. Now tossed at the sport of the wind, 
now sombre beneath the shadows of passing clouds, now 
brightening in the sun, and now sleeping with an infant's 
calmness, it has at all times a charm which belongs not to 
the ** dull, tame shore." 

There is a human interest, too, in the white sails, far or 
near, whether scudding before the gale with bellying 
canvas, and dashing the white foam from the prow, or 
slow-moving with full-spread wings before the gentler 
breeze, which always enchains the eye and betokens 
man's empire over nature. 

In the broad features of the land, also, there is an har- 
monious charm. If there are no hills to lift us to the 
clouds there are none to limit our horizon ; to shut out 
the sweet sun at its rising and its setting ; to obscure any 

the ocean — which plied between Detroit and Buffalo a half century ago, 
should have disappeared. The picturesque groups of sailing craft, also, 
have given place to prosaic lines of hulls under bare poles, towed by tugs. 


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of the lesser lights of heaven, or the glories of cloud-land 
and of sunset, or to interrupt the imagination, when her 
** magical pinions spread wide*' over, a domain that 
from its very uniformity seems the more limitless. 

" The great heaven 
Seems to stoop down upon the scene in love, — 
A nearer vault and of a tenderer blue, 
Than that which bends above the eastern hills." * 

♦ '' The Prairie."— Bryant. 

Digitized by CjOOQIC . 



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** Father of lakes! " thy waters bend 

Beyond the eagle's utmost view, 
When, throned in heaven, he sees thee send 

Back to the sky its world of blue. 

Boundless and deep, the forests weave 

Their twilight shade thy borders o*er, 
And threatening- cliffs, like giants, heave 

Their rugged forms along thy shore.'* 

Saml. G. Goodrich. 


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AMONG the pleasantest of all my reminiscences of 
travel is that of the exploration, in connection with 
the geological survey of Michigan, of the coasts of 
our upper peninsula, in 1 840. 

The party for this expedition was composed of the 
State geologist. Dr. Douglass Houghton ; his two assist- 
ants, C. C. Douglass and myself; Fredk. Hubbard, in 
charge of instrumental observations; and, for a part of 
the way, H. Thielson, a civil engineer, and Charles W. 
Penny, a young merchant of Detroit, supernumeraries. 

We left Detroit in the steamer " Illinois," arriving at 
Mackinac, May 23. Here two boat crews were made 
up, consisting of six Canadians. These belonged to that 
class so famous in the palmy days of the fur trade and 
the French regime, now extinct, and known to history 
as ^^ coureurs de bois'' They were of mixed blood, in 
some, the French, in others, the Indian, predominating. 
Bred to the business, they would row without fatigue 
from daybreak until dark, — twelve or fourteen hours^ — 
unlade the boats, pitch the tents for the bourgeois, pile 
up the baggage, prepare the evening meal, and then 
creep under their blankets in the open air and enjoy 
the sound sleep that labor bestows. 

The principal dependence of these voyageurs for food 
— we had no leisure for hunting and little for fishing — 

* Read before the Detroit Pioneer Society, Jan., 1874. 


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was upon a soup of beans, with a most liberal supply of 
water, into which a piece of pork was dropped. A cake 
of hard-bread was allowed to each. 

The boats for the passage of the Sault were each 
about twenty feet long by four broad, lightly constructed 
of pine and cedar, with sharp bows, and were drawn out 
of the water at night. At the Sault, to which provis- 
ions had been forwarded, one of these boats was ex- 
changed for a " Mackinac barge,'* sufficiently large to 
carry two months* provisions and all our baggage. 

A voyage to and upon our great lake at the time of 
my story was by no means the easy journey it is now. 
North of Mackinac, no steamers and no regular line of 
sail-vessels traversed the waters. The ship-canal around 
the waters of the Sault had not then been projected. 
Furs and fish constituted the only commerce, and the 
latter found too few customers to make the trade profit- 
able. The American Fur Company had its headquarters 
at Sault Ste. Marie, where was a village of some twenty 
or thirty houses, mostly of logs, and the United States 
maintained a garrison. Gn the opposite shore was a 
small English settlement, consisting of a few white- 
washed cabins and Episcopal and Baptist mission estab- 
lishments. Here also the Hudson's Bay Company had 
a post. 

At L'Anse had been established for many years a 
factory of the American Fur Company, the only build- 
ings being a log house, storehouse, and barn, and near 
by a Baptist mission, consisting of a dozen neat huts of 
logs and bark. Near the extreme west end of the lake 
this company had another factory or trading-post, at 
La Pointe. 

These were the only white settlements on the south 


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shore of this great lake. At two or three points, tran- 
sient fishing-camps might be met with. Else, all this 
region was wild and solitary almost as when, a century- 
earlier, it was traversed by the canoe of the Jesuit mis- 
sionary or echoed to the rude songs of the wild employ- 
ees of the fur traders. In a large part of the country, on 
the southern border, within the territory of the United 
States, the Indian title had not been extinguished. 
But the settlements of the aboriginal race were rare; 
probably the whole region did not number 1000 souls. 

Apart from the scientific animus of the expedition, 
our party, in the ardor of youth, could not but look for- 
ward to the new and strange scenes which awaited us 
with somewhat of the enthusiasm that inspired the first 
explorers of this region of vast forests and inland seas. 
We were to voyage almost in the same mode as those 
travellers, to witness scenes as yet little changed, and 
partaking of the same character of solitude and mystery. 

Though I wander from my narrative, I must linger a 
moment over the impression produced by the romantic 
island which was our starting-point, Michilimackinac. 

Connected with the story of the early wanderings of 
the French, their perilous missions in the far wilderness, 
the fur trade, with its fort, its agents, its coureurs de 
bois and numerous employees, its bustle, show, and dis- 
sipation, its traffic and its enormous profits, and with the 
numerous native tribes which here rendezvoused, — no 
place in the North-west possesses greater historic and 
traditionary interest. The town retained, as it still does, 
much of its old-time character. The crescent bay in 
front was still a lounging-place for the American Ishma- 
elite, whose huts often covered the beach ; and this was 
the last place on the frontier where the Mackinac barge 


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might be manned and equipped, as a century ago, by a 
motley crew of half-breed voyageurs. 

The natural beauties and wildness of the island, its 
situation, enthroned at the apex of the peninsula of 
Michigan and embracing magnificent views of water and 
island, its lake breezes and pure cold air, and the excel- 
lence of its white-fish and trout, have long made it one 
of the most attractive of watering-places. The proposal 
to conserve it as a national park is worthy of its char- 
acter, and it is to be hoped that thus its natural beauties, 
and what remains of its woods, will be preserved forever 
to the nation. 

On the morning of May 26 we took our departure 
from Mackinac, with a moderate breeze and a clear sky, 
— a thing to be noted where fogs are so frequent, — and 
coasting by St. Martin's Island, entered les Cheneaux. 

The river, or more properly Strait of Ste. Marie, is a 
series of channels, winding amid innumerable islands. 
Some of these, as St. Joseph and Drummond, cover 
many square mifes, but the greater number are much 
smaller, and often occupy only a few acres. They line 
the whole northern coast of Lake Huron, and are oc- 
casioned by the junction between the silurian lime rocks 
and the azoic or primary rocks of Canada. 

These islands are but little elevated above the water, 
and are wooded to the edge with cedar, fir and birch. 
The evergreen trees are completely shrouded in a tapes- 
try of parasitic moss. This is a true lichen, and is not 
allied to the great Southern epiphyte which it so strongly 
resembles. It hangs in long festoons, giving the woods 
a fantastic and gloomy appearance, but the effect is 
very beautiful. What are called "les Cheneaux** are 
passages among islands of this description. They are 


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seldom wide enough to admit any but the smallest craft, 
and so intricate as to form a perfect labyrinth, where 
any but the practised mariner might wander long, ** in 
endless mazes lost." 

To the north and east of St. Joseph Island the Ste. 
Marie parts the two systems of rocks, and an instant 
change takes place in the character of the scenery. 
Instead of low, timbered shores, the islands rise in abrupt 
cones, rounded and water-worn, to the height of twenty 
to one hundred feet, presenting bare knobs of hornblende 
and quartz. The surfaces are worn smooth, by the ac- 
tion of glaciers, and are frequently covered with a thick 
carpet of lichens. Among these is, in profusion, the 
beautiful reindeer moss. A few miles to the right, in 
Canada, hills of granite rise to a height of 500 to 1000 
feet, and form a background to the view. 

To the geologist these low hills and rounded knobs 
have an absorbing interest. Agassiz tells us that Amer- 
ica has been falsely denominated the new world ; that 
" hers was the first dry land lifted out of the waters ; 
hers the first shore washed by the ocean that enveloped 
all the earth beside." The antiquary finds in this por- 
tion of America a very respectable antiquity. To its 
known civil history he adds evidence of the existence of 
a race of men familiair with this region ages before its 
discovery by the French, who were by no means despic- 
able cultivators of the arts, and he infers a human his- 
tory — could he but gather the full record — possibly as 
ancient as the pyramids. But science points to a period 
infinitely more remote. We had reached and stood 
upon what was the skeleton of our earth, when but a 
crust above the seething fires beneath, not only ages 
before man had a being upon its surface, but probably 



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ages before what we call the ** Old World " had Been 
raised by the forces of nature above the universal ocean. 
Here was antiquity unmeasured by any human standard. 
Time itself was young then. This backbone of the ear- 
liest continent still stretches unbroken, from the Atlan- 
tic to the western plains. During the unnumbered 
years in which the surface of the earth has been changed 
by successive upheavals and depressions it has stood 

Around the base of these low granite and metamor- 
phic hills, in the bed of the river, lies a sandstone rock, 
which we shall find rising into cliffs along the coast of 
the lake above. It is the lowest of the paleozoic 
series, the first rock which brings to our eyes evidence 
of life upon this continent, and, if geologists speak truth, 
the first which bears witness to the dawn of life upon 
our earth. Of the earliest forms of organic life two 
only have with certainty been found in this rock, the 
lingula and the trilobite. And these, in the perfection 
and adaptation of their structure, equal the most perfect 
beings of their kind which exist at the present day. 
Thus the first record of the earliest life, upon the most 
ancient sea beach which the earth affords, is in apparent 
condemnation of the development hypothesis of Darwin. 
Are they then evidence of sudden and independent crea- 
tion, or must we believe that these forms had their origin 
in some yet more remote and obscure past, and that 
we behold in these silurian rocks only their perfect 
development ? 

Following the northerly channel, the Ste. Marie soon 
expands into a broad and lovely sheet of water, twelve 
miles long, called Lake St. George. We have escaped 
from the labyrinth of rocky isles, the southern shores 


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are again densely wooded, while the azoic rocks are seen 
on the Canada side, stretching ofiF to the north-west, and 
terminating in a series of mountainous knobs, — the ver- 
tebrae of the world before the Flood. To this lake the 
Narrows succeed, and here for the first time the Ste. 
Marie assumes the appearance of a river, being con- 
tracted to less than 1000 feet, with a current and occa- 
sional rapids. 

We passed frequent memorials of the Indian inhab- 
itants. It is not to be wondered at that this region 
abounds with them, since with an eye to natural beauty 
this poetical race selects the loveliest spots for the rest- 
ing-places, both of the living and the dead. The graves 
were close cabins of logs, thatched with bark, and the 
places selected are among the most beautiful and ele- 
vated sites, as if the souls of the departed braves could 
hear the echoing paddle and watch the approach of the 
distant canoe. The burial-place of the chief is desig- 
nated by a picketed enclosure, and here it is customary 
for the voyaging Indian to stop, kindle his camp-fire at 
the head of the grave, and, on departing, to leave within 
the enclosure a small portion of the provisions he has 
cooked, for the use of the occupant. A flat cedar stake 
at the head exhibits in red paint the figure of some 
bird or brute, — the family totem of the deceased. Often 
is seen a small cross, erected as an emblem of his faith 
in Holy Catholic Church, while close by, in strange con- 
trast, is that evidence of his unalterable attachment to 
the creed of his fathers, — the basket of provisions that 
is to support his journeying to the land of spirits. 

The camping-ground of the voyageur has been that 
of the Indian from time immemorial. The wigwam 
poles are recognized from a distance, in some open glade 


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along the shore, left standing after the vagabond in- 
mates have departed. And there is often to be found 
an old canoe, a camp-kettle, a cradle swinging from the 
poles, and invariably a litter of picked bones and dirty 
rags, completely covering the spot, with the burnt 
brands and ashes of the cabin fire in the midst. Some- 
times we meet a rude altar of stones, on which are laid 
bits of tobacco and other petty offerings to the Manitou. 
Sometimes the scene is varied by the cabin of a Cana- 
dian Frenchman, who, unable to resist the charm of 
savage life, is bringing up his family of half-breed chil- 
dren in a condition little akin to civilization. 

Early on the morning of May 30 we reached the 
Sault, and proceeded to encamp at the head of the rapids. 
This required a portage of several rods. The remainder 
of the day was spent at the village, in witnessing the novel 
mode of fishing, and other sights pertaining to this re- 
mote frontier post. 

Preparations for our lake expedition being completed, 
on the first of June we took our departure from the head 
of the rapids. Here lay at anchor a beautiful light brig 
belonging to the American Fur Company, and which 
bore the name of its founder, John Jacob Astor. Close 
by its side was a schooner, which had been built by the 
Ohio Fishing and Mining Company, at Cleveland, and 
had just made the portage around the rapids. Another 
vessel was preparing for a similar transportation. With 
three such crafts floating on its bosom, our great lake 
seemed to have already lost something of its old-time 
character, when, a wide waste of waters, it was traversed 
onlyby the canoe of the Indian and voyageur. Its im- 
portance as a great commercial highway had thus begun 


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to be foreshadowed, but, in fact, its waters still laved a 
savage wilderness.* 

Some natural phenomena pertaining to a high north- 
ern latitude had begun to exhibit what were marvels to 
our unaccustomed eyes. One of these was the length- 
ened twilight, the sun continuing to irradiate the horizon 
with a bright flash, until nearly midnight. In fact, it was 
quite possible to tell the hour of the night at any time, 
by the light which indicated the sun's position. The 
Auroras, too, were surpassingly brilliant ; often the elec- 
tric rays streamed up from every point of the horizon, 
meeting at the .zenith and waving like flame. I note 
these simple and common phenomena because they were 
novel to us, and it is only those who travel and encamp 
in the open air who enjoy to the full such scenes of 
beauty and wonder. 

A summer temperature had now set in, and we 
witnessed another characteristic of this high latitude, — 
the sudden advance of the season. During the three 
days of our stay at this place, vegetation, which a week 
before had hardly commenced, sprung into active life. 
Trees then bare were now in full leaf. This phenomenon, 
though common to our side of the Atlantic, we had no- 
where else seen so conspicuously displayed. 

Time will not permit a narrative of our journey, a two- 
months' coasting voyage along the whole southern side 
of Lake Superior. Nor can I speak, except briefly, of 
the beauties of the scenery, most of which is now so well 

* The immense commerce since built up will appear from the statement, 
that in 1886 the number of vessels which passed through the Ste. Mary's 
Falls Canal was 6203, carrying 3,701,000 tons and over 50,000 passengers. 

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known ; of* Gros Cap and Point Iroquois, those rock- 
built pillars of Hercules that. guard the entrance, and 

" like giants stand. 
To sentinel enchanted land ; " 

of White-fish Point and its surroundings ; of the grand, 
wild and varied rocky coast ; of the many beautiful 
streams, flashing with cascades, and filled with the 
speckled trout ; or of our scientific researches and ob- 
servations. I will venture only to relate an occasional in- 
cident, and to delineate some features of the coast scenery 
which seem to me to have been too little noticed or too 
imperfectly described by others. 

Westward from White-fish Point stretch for many miles 
broad beaches of sand and gravel, backed by hills clothed 
with Norway-pines, spruce, hemlock, cedar, and birch. 
These beaches form extensive fishing-grounds, of which 
parties had already availed themselves. Every one 
knows the superiority of Lake Superior white-fish, in size 
and flavor, pver those of the lower waters. Yet in relat- 
ing the following experience I am aware of the risk 
which I run of being set down as the retailer of a '* fish 

As we were rowing along the beach, some object was 
descried at a distance, making out of the water. All, at 
once, gave vigorous chase. On our near approach, the 
animal, which proved to be an otter, dropped upon the 
sand a fish which he had just hauled out, and retreated 
into the lake. This fish, which was scarcely dead, was of 
a size so extraordinary that it might truly be called — the 
fish, not the story — a whopper ! It measured two and a 
half feet in length, and one foot five inches in circumfer- 
ence. We had no accurate means of weighing, but its 


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weight was fairly estimated at fifteen pounds ! * The flesh 
was delicious in proportion, and made our whole party 
several capital meals. 

These beaches terminate at a deep harbor called the 
Grand Marais. Hitherto the hills or dunes of sand have 
been of no great elevation. But now occurs a phenom- 
enon which, though it seems not to have been classed 
among the wonders of this region, nor described in any 
books of travel, so far as I am aware, may well be called 
extraordinary, and worthy a place among the scenic won- 
ders of America. It is a miniature Sahara, several miles 
in extent, and in many of its peculiar features resembling 
those lifeless, sandy deserts which are so distinguishing 
phenomena in some parts of the world. It is known to 
the French voyageurs as " Le Grand Sable'- 

Steep cliffs are first observed rising from the water 
with a very uniform face, of about 200 feet in height, 
beyond which are visible barren dunes, rising still higher 
in the distance. On our approach the whole appeared 
like lofty hills enveloped in fog. This proved to be noth- 
ing less than clouds of sand, which the winds were con- 
stantly sweeping towards the lake, and which formed a 
mist so dense as to conceal completely the real character 
of the coast. 

On ascending these steep and wasting cliffs, a scene 
opens to view which has no parallel except in the great 
deserts. For an extent of many miles nothing is visible 
but a waste of sand ; not under the form of a monotonous 
plain, but rising into lofty cones, sweeping in graceful 
curves, hurled into hollows and spread into long-extended 
valleys. A few grass roots and small shrubs in some 
places find a feeble subsistence, and are the only vegeta- 
tion. But thrusting through the sand are several tops 


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of half-buried pines, barkless, and worn dry and craggy 
by the drifting soil, while below the surface their bodies 
appear to be in perfect preservation. To our imagina- 
tion they seem the time-worn columns of an antique 
temple, whose main structure has long ago tumbled into 
dust, or been buried, like the ruins of Egypt, beneath 
the drift of many centuries. 

The surface sand is mostly packed quite hard, and may 
be trod as a solid floor. TJiis, in many places, is strewed 
thickly with pebbles ; the deep hollows present vast 
beds of them. Among tjiese are a great variety of pre- 
cious stones common to the rocks of the country ; agates, 
chalcedony, jasper, quartz of every shade of color and 
transparency, with hornstone, trap, and other minerals. 
All are worn smooth, and often beautifully polished by 
the sharp, drifting sands, and many rich specimens were 
obtained. We were reminded of the valley of diamonds 
in the Arabian tales, which it was the fortune of Sinbad 
to discover, in a scarcely less singular depository. 

In the rear of this desert, about two miles from the 
coast, timber is again met with. Here, just at the edge 
of the wood, a small and beautiful lake lies embosomed ; 
on the one side, a rich tract of maple forest; on the other, 
barren and shifting sand. It broke on our view, from 
amidst the realm of desolation, as did the unexpected 
fountain to which Saladin led the weary cavalier, Sir 
Kenneth, over the sandy plains of Palestine, as told in 
the magic pages of Scott. We named it, not inaptly, I 
think, " the diamond of the desert." Around this sheet 
of water we found snow, on the tenth of June, in large 
quantities, buried beneath a few inches of sand. 

From the diamond lake issues a small stream, which, 
after making its way through the sand, reaches the clay 


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that constitutes the base of these dunes, and tumbles a 
perfect cascade into the greater lake. This rivulet sepa- 
rates the dense maple forest which lies on the east from 
cliffs of driven sand, which rise abruptly to a height that 
far overlooks the woodland, and are the commencement 
of the grand and leafless sables. 

The view on ascending these is most entrancing. On 
the one side stretches beneath, and far away, the verdant 
forest ; while, by a transition as sudden as it is opposite 
in character, on the other side every feature of the land- 
scape seems as if buried beneath hills of snow. The 
desert surface might be Hkened to that of an angry ocean, 
only that the undulations are far more vast, and the wave 
crests more lofty than the billows of the sea in its wildest 
commotion. Looking upward from one of these im- 
mense basins, where only the sand-wave meets the sky, 
the beholder is impressed with a sublimity of a novel 
kind, unmixed with the terror which attends a storm 
upon the Alps or on the ocean. The scene, wild and 
unique, may well claim this brief praise, though hitherto 
unsung, and lacking the charm of historical association, 
— '* the consecration and the poet's dream.** 

Twelve miles beyond this singular region the beaches 
terminate, and the sand-rock makes its appearance on the 
coast, in a range of abrupt cliffs. These are ** The Pict- 
ured Rocks." They have been often described, but no 
description that I have seen conveys to my mind a satis- 
factory impression of their bold, wild, and curious fut- 
ures. In attempting to convey some clear comprehen- 
sion of them, I can only hope to impart a faithful, 
though it be a feeble conception of the peculiar features 
of this marvel of the Northern Lakes. 

These cliffs are composed of the same gray-and-red 


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sand-rock which I have alluded to as the lowest of the 
paleozoic or silurian rocks. It appears in many places on 
the coast, and probably forms a large part of the bed of 
the lake. The cliffs here rise into a mural precipice, 
springing perpendicularly from the deep waters to the 
height of from 80 to 250 feet ; and for the distance of 
fifteen miles, except in one or two places, are destitute 
of a beach upon which even a canoe may be landed. So 
dangerous is the coast that vessels all give it a wide 
berth, passing at too great distance for accurate view. 
A small boat that lingers runs imminent risk, from the 
liability of this lake to sudden gales, and the traverse is 
attempted only during a perfect calm. The sand-rock 
lies in thick strata of varying degrees of hardness, from a 
coarse crag of the hardest cemented pebbles to a friable 
rock of aggregated sand. The predominant color is gray, 
sometimes light, often dark and rusty, and stained by 
oxides of iron and copper, with which the materials are 
charged. Bearing in mind these characteristics, the va- 
riety of aspects and the strange forms that these cliffs as- 
sume will find a ready explanation. 

The great diversity of hues that give so beautiful and 
variegated an appearance to large portions of the sur- 
face, and from which the cliffs derive their name, are 
owing to the metallic oxides which have filtered through 
the porous stone in watery solutions and left their stains 
upon the surface. Beautiful as is the effect, it is due to 
candor to say that to my eyes there appeared but very 
imperfect representations of those various forms in the 
vegetable and animal kingdoms which figure in some 
highly-colored and fanciful descriptions in travellers* 
tales. Too extravagant an idea could scarcely be con- 
veyed of the exceeding brilliancy of the coloring; but in 


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regard to what artists style the ** laying on," the picture 
presented a much closer resemblance to a house-painter's 
bucket, upon the outside of which paints of all colors 
have trickled down in tapering streams. They represent 
not so much the picture which Nature has painted, as the 
palette upon which she has cleaned her pencils. Every 
hue of the rainbow, besides black and white, and in 
every possible circumstance of shade and alternation, are 
drawn in long lines^ covering thousands of feet of surface. 

Near the western extremity of the range, these colors 
assume a surpassing brilliancy, with a metallic lustre. 
Streaming over a gracefully curved surface, having an 
area of several thousand yards, they mimic, on a gigantic 
scale, the stripes on our national flag, as it waves in the 
breeze ; or, passing down a fractured ledge, are contorted 
into long zigzag lines. 

Upon close examination, these colors are found to 
proceed from slimy exudations, and to retain their brill- 
iance only while fresh. When the face of the cliff has 
become dry, they possess a more faint and often mottled 
appearance. Then may sometimes be found depicted, 
upon a background of white, yellow or dun, as if rudely 
dabbed in by the artist, those vague similitudes, in 
which the imagination may realize verdant landscapes or 
fierce battle scenes ; perhaps, if sufficiently vivid, a full 
set of Raphael's Cartoons. As a whole, the general ef- 
fect of the coloring is so striking, that the appellation 
conferred upon these cliffs is well deserved. Thus 
strangely drawn, upon as strange a canvas, they add, 
at least, wonderful beauty and effect to the greater won- 
ders which Nature has here displayed. 

But color is far from being the most notable feature 
of the Pictured Rocks. The disintegrating material of 


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which the rock is composed renders it very susceptible 
to the effects of the elements. These cliffs present indu- 
bitable evidence that the lake once washed them at a 
height many feet above its present level. And as the 
strata are of differing degrees of hardness, they have 
been worn by the waves into a variety of forms. Huge 
cavernous fissures penetrate the massive wall, often to 
the distance of several hundred feet, piercing through 
its great projecting buttresses, and. leaving the solid 
mountain supported by bare pillars. These, in turn, 
are worn by the eddying waters into cylindrical columns, 
connected by arches that sometimes spring with great 
regularity to a vast height. 

An immense angular projection of the cliff, known to 
voyageurs as *' La Portaille,'* exhibits on its three sides 
arches of this construction, one of which springs to a 
height of about 150 feet. The openings form passages 
into a great cavern, or more properly a vestibule, the 
roof of which is beyond the reach of our longest oars, 
and which conducts through the entire projecting mass, — 
a distance of not less than 500 feet. Entering with our 
boat into this natural rock-built hall, its yawning caverns 
and overhanging walls strike a sudden awe into the soul. 
Echo gives back the voice in loud reverberations, and 
the discharge of a musket produces a roar like a clap 
of thunder. " Even the slight motion of the waves," 
writes Governor Cass, -* which in the most profound calm 
agitates these internal seas, swept through the deep 
caverns with a noise of distant thunder, and died upon 
the ear, as it rolled forward in the dark recesses inacces- 
sible to human observation ; no sound more melancholy 
or more awful ever vibrated upon human nerves. Rest- 
ing in a frail canoe, upon the limpid waters, we seemed 


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almost suspended in air, so pellucid is the element upon 
which we floated. In gazing upon the towering battle- 
ments which impended ov&r us, and from which the 
smallest fragment would have destroyed us, we felt, and 
felt intensely, our own insignificance. No splendid 
cathedral, no temple built with human hands, no pomp 
of worship, could ever impress the spectator with such 
deep humility, and so strong a conviction of the im- 
mense distance between him and the Almighty Archi- 
tect."* Enthusiastic language! and yet it cannot be 
deemed exaggerated. 

The number and perfection of the wave-created pil- 
lars meeting the eye at every turn, — and which seem 
formed to support the immense weight above, — the vari- 
ous forms of the arches and of the overhanging rock, 
bear a close resemblance to the orders of human archi- 
tecture. The rotundity of the columns is, in general, well 
preserved, and their tops swell into capitals. The sup- 
ported mass, which is seldom less than 100 feet in thick- 
ness, often assumes characteristic forms, corresponding 
to the mock design. In one instance, for nearly half a 
mile, it resembles a vast entablature, of which the cor- 
nice, — ^jutting at least 20 feet, with a curve whose grace 
is not excelled by the best sculpture, — the pictured 
frieze, the mouldings, metopes, medallions, and other of 
those forms which pertain to Grecian architecture, are 
struck out, with a master, but giant hand, in munificent 
relief, arid with a perfection truly admirable. A portion 
of the structure had fallen, and lay at the base in heaps 
of ruins. But even the imperfections appear as if due to 
the gradual process of ddcay. It requires little stretch 

* Discourse before Detroit Historical Society. 


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of the imagination to conceive the whole fabric to be 
an enormous edifice, the grandest of man's construc- 
tion, of which the main body has by some convulsion 
been sunk and engulfed in the waters. We thought of 
these monuments of ancient art which the volcanic rain 
of Vesuvius had overwhelmed ; but such a temple as 
this would have enclosed half of Pompeii ! 

The mind naturally inquires. Are the beautiful forms 
of ancient architecture the result of long and laborious 
study, or was some marvel like this exhibited in that 
distant era, from which cunning sculptors borrowed 
those designs that immortalize the Parthenon ? And if 
— as the learned have supposed — the marble structures 
of that age received the addition of a coat of glowing 
colors, — of which time has left some traces, — we here 
view the prototype, not only of the graceful forms upon 
which they labored so successfully, but of the overlay of 
colorings, in the glory of their original freshness ! 

These are but single features in the scenic display. 
The line of cliffs is not uniformly regular, but curves 
gradually to the south-west, and presents many angles 
and projecting points. Passing on to harder portions of 
the rock, the yoyageur may encounter at the next angle 
a vertical and unbroken wall, rearing its solid front from 
the bed of the lake to the height of from 200 to 300 
feet above the surface. The sharpness of the angular 
projection equals that created by the square and plum- 
met ; while the immense thickness of the strata causes 
the wall to appear as laid in immense blocks, a hundred 
feet in length. No such blocks were built into their 
mausolea by the proudest qf the Pharaohs. 

New changes present themselves as the traveller pro- 
ceeds. Suddenly he is before the walls of an impregnable 


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fortress, complete with glacis, bastion, and towers. The 
western cape of Miner*s River exhibits a curious display 
of this kind. It resembles the dilapidated tower of some 
time-worn gothic castle. The base rests upon a series of 
short columns, connected by groined arches, through 
many of which a boat may pass with ease. There are 
eight or ten of these pillars ; several have large en- 
trances above, and the tower rears its broken battle- 
ments to the height of 120 feet. 

Among the characteristic features, none is more extra- 
ordinary than one to which the French voyageurs have 
appropriately given the name of " La Chapelle.** This 
rock was originally part of the solid clifif, of which the 
greater portion has been swept away, causing a valley 
about half a mile in breadth, through which a considera- 
ble stream enters the lake, falling over the rocks in a 
sheet of foam. Close by, reared upon the rocky plat- 
form, about twenty feet above the lake, and conspicuous 
from its isolation, stands the chapel. It consists of a 
tabular mass of sandstone, raised upon five columns, 
whose capitals swell into a uniform arch and support the 
ceiling or dome of the edifice. Its whole height is 56 
feet. The pillars are somewhat irregular in form and 
position ; in-cluding their bases, they are about 25 feet 
in height, and from 4 to 6 feet diameter in the swell. 
Regular proportions are not altogether preserved, for in 
most of them the central portion has the smallest diam- 
eter, like an hour-glass. Two uphold the front, and 
from these the arch springs to the height of 30 feet, al- 
lowing to the roof a thickness of five or six feet. The 
span of this arch is 32 feet, as viewed from the water, in 
which direction the spectator looks completely through 
the temple into the woodland beyond. The strength 

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of the roof thus upheld must be considerable, since it is 
clothed with timber, and from the very centre shoots, 
spire-like, a lofty pine. The cliff on which the edifice 
stands forms a proportionate pedestal, ascending from 
the water in steps, which may be easily mounted. 

This solemn natural temple might contain a congrega- 
tion of several hundred persons. Nor are the usual ac- 
commodations for the preacher wanting. A column, 
the upper half of which has been broken, projects from 
a recess in the walls, and is worn into a curve behind, 
like the half of a letter S, creating a stand which would 
serve the purpose as admirably as it strikingly resembles 
the old-fashioned pulpit, the base of the column afford- 
ing convenient steps. 

Upon the cliff, just without, a column stands detached, 
and worn into the form of an urn, no bad representation 
of the baptismal font. 

At what epoch of the world, or for what class of wor- 
shippers, this almost perfect temple was created, we 
might ask in vain of geologist or theologian. Certainly 
it is well designed to raise in the beholders thoughts of 
adoration for its all-skilful Architect, while they assign 
to it a chief place among the wonders of his workman- 

An urn-shaped mass, similar to the one here observed, 
of great regularity and beauty of form, and not less than 
50 feet in height, may be seen at another point of the 
coast. Several rills of water leap from the very top of 
these precipitous cliffs, and add much to the charm of 
the view. Indeed, taken in connection with the wide- 
sweeping lake, the distant mountain ranges, and the 
woodland, crowning the cliff, the scene presented is of 
the most picturesque and wildest character. 


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" Where'er we gaze, around, above, below, 
What rainbow tints, what magic charms are found ! 
Rock, river, forest, mountain, all abound, 
And bluest skies that harmonize the whole ; 
Beneath, the distant torrent's rushing sound 
Tells where the volumed cataract doth roll, 
Between those hanging rocks, that shock yet please the soul." 

Against these huge ramparts in the hour of the storm 
the billows of this impetuous lake dash with terrific fury, 
rumbling beneath the open arches, until, from the hollow 
caverns within, the sounds return like distant echoes, and 
at times their spray is thrown to the very summits of the 
cliff. Woe betide the bark that is overtaken by the tem- 
pest before these hopeless barriers ! 

But when the winds are down, lulling the lake to gent- 
lest murmurs, the cautious boatman plies along the lone 
rampart, and with beating heart ventures to explore its 
awe-inspiring recesses, those 

" Worn and wild receptacles, 
Worked by the storms, yet work'd as it were planned. 
In hollow halls, with sparry roof and cells." 

From this sketch some correct idea may perhaps be 
gathered of a few of those strange forms which Nature, 
in her sportive hours, has here carved out of the solid 
fabric of the globe, as if in mockery of the efforts of 
man, gigantic monuments of that immeasurable Power 
who formed the wonders of the universe. 

Thirty miles west from the Pictured Rocks, at Choco- 
late and Carp rivers, we first met, in their approach to 
the shore, the azoic or primary rocks, which from here 
onward constitute so interesting and important a feature 
in the geology of the country. Of their scientific or 


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their economical character it is not my purpose to speak, 
further than to say that to them belong the iron beds, 
which are such a mine of wealth to our State. Here, a 
few years after our visit, sprang into being the busy and 
thriving city of Marquette. But at the time of which I 
speak, all was a solitude. 

From hence to Keweenaw Bay ranges of granite knobs 
rise into considerable hills, and around them lie a series 
of quartzites, slates, and metamorphosed sandstones. 
The granites are pierced by dykes of trap, which in 
some cases form straight, narrow, and often lofty walls, in 
others have overflowed in irregular masses. Here Pluto, 
not Neptune, has been the controlling spirit, and has left 
the witness of his rule upon the face of the country. 
Ascending the knobs of granite and quartz, the change 
is most striking. To the east the eye embraces a. tract 
lying in immense broad steppes of the sandstone, extend- 
ing beyond the Pictured Rocks; while to the west are 
seen only rolling hills and knobs, terminating in the 
Huron Mountains. 

I can add nothing to what is so well known of the 
mineral riches of this part of the country. But there is 
in its building-stones a wealth that is hardly yet begun to 
be realized. No more beautiful and serviceable material 
than the easily-worked and variously-tinted sandstones is 
found in the West ; and her granites, already broken by 
natural forces into convenient blocks, and as yet untried, 
will command a market in the time coming, when the 
solid and durable shall be regarded as chief requisites to 
good architecture. 

Following" our westerly direction to Point Keweenaw, 
we find the dominion of Pluto established on a most 
magnificent scale. Not only is his energy displayed in 


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the stern and rock-bound coast, but in the lofty ranges 
of trap, which rise into rugged hills of from 400 to 900 
feet above the lake. Within these are secreted, but 
scarcely concealed, those wonderful veins of native cop- 
per, here quarried rather than mined, in masses such as 
the world has nowhere else produced. 

But of all this wealth nothing was then known, except 
that traces of copper were visible at a few places along 
the coast, and that a large mass of the native metal lay 
in the bed of Ontonagon River, long revered by the In- 
dians as a Manitou, and mentioned in the relations of the 
early French historians. 

I will but add, as the result of this season's explora- 
tions, that the report of the State geologist, published 
the ensuing winter, unravelled the whole subject of the 
mode of occurrence of the copper and its associated min- 
erals, in the most complete and scientific manner. It 
first made known the immense value which Michigan 
possessed in its hitherto despised Upper Peninsula ; and 
its immediate effect was to arouse an interest in this then 
wild and uninhabited Indian territory, which has led to 
the opening up of its mines, and its present teeming 

On the third of July we encamped at Copper Harbor, 
and spent several days in exploration of the surrounding 
country, and in blasting for ores. Several blasts were 
got ready for the great national jubilee, which we com- 
memorated in the noisy manner usual with Americans, 
by a grand discharge from the rocks. We succeeded in 
producing a tremendous report, and the echo, resounding 
from the placid water as from a sounding-board, pealed 
forth in corresponding reverberations for several minutes. 
Later in the day we retired to our camp and partook of 


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an equally grand dinner. It consisted of pigeons, fried 
and stewed, corn and bean soup, short-cake and hard- 
tack, pork, and — last but not least — a can of fine oysters, 
which had been brought along for the occasion. Truly a 
sumptuous repast for a party of wilderness vagrants, even 
on a Fourth of July anniversary ! 

But time warns me to hasten my journey. I will 
therefore proceed at once to the Ontonagon, where an 
adventure befel, which it becomes a true knight-errant to 
relate. It was our purpose to pass up this river to the 
large mass of copper already alluded to. As we landed 
at the mouth there were noticed, on the opposite side of 
the river, several Indian lodges. As soon as we had 
dined, a few of the occupants crossed over in canoes, 
shook hands with us, giving the usual greeting of " Bo 
jou,** and received a small gift of tobacco and bread. 
Accompanying were half a dozen young boys, some of 
whom had remarkably fine features. We could not but 
notice, as an unusual circumstance, that several of the 
men were painted black. One athletic fellow in particu- 
lar, in this grimy coloring, and naked except the clout, 
made a very grotesqlie though savage appearance. The 
devil himself, however, is said not to be so black as he is 
painted, and this fellow seemed rather to act the buffoon 
than the noble warrior. 

The party proved to belong to the Buffaloes, whose 
chief we had met at River Tequamenon, near the eastern 
end of the lake, and were under the command of the son 
of that chief. The latter was a resolute-looking fellow, 
of about 26 or 30 years of age. His face was painted red, 
and he wore a medal bearing the likeness of John Quincy 
Adams. We paid little attention to the Indians, al- 


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though aware that on several occasions exploring parties \ 

had been stopped at the mouth of this river and turned 
back. \ 

We had made but two or three miles progress up the | 

stream when the rapid stroke of paddles was heard, and 
a canoe, manned with Indians, shot quickly around a 
bend below and came into sight. The savages were 
seated, as their custom is, in the bottom of their bark, 
so that only heads and shoulders were visible. As each 
applied his whole strength the canoe skimmed over the 
surface like a young duck, while the dashing of so many 
paddles caused her to seem propelled by a water-wheel. 

Our leader's boat, which was ahead, immediately lay 
to and raised her American flag. " If they want to fight,'' 
said the Doctor, "we'll give them a chance." Our tw^o 
boats moved into line, and the doctor's assistants armed 
themselves, one with a revolver, the other with a rusty 
shot-gun, our entire military resource. The canoe was 
soon alongside, and the heads and shoulders proved to 
belong to the bodies of eight stout natives, headed by 
the young chief. Dr. Houghton held out his hand to be 
shaken as before. He then asked, through an interpreter, 
if they recollected the man who had put something into 
their arms when they were sick, a number of years ago. 
This something was vaccine for the small-pox. Doctor H. 
having accompanied the Schoolcraft expedition, in the 
capacity of physician and botanist. To this the chief, 
who doubtless well knew, made no reply, but demanded 
our errand up the river, and said that he and his men had 
been stationed at the mouth by his father, the head of 
the tribe, with orders to allow no boat to pass up without 
that chief's permission. He added further, that we had 
not paid him, the son, the respect that was his due, by 


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calling at his lodge and leaving a present. Our leader 
replied that he was sent hithef by their great Father, 
whose instructions he should obey ; that he should as- 
cend the river as far as suited him, and that he did not 
recognize in them any authority to stop him. 

Chief, You must wait at the mouth until the Buffalo 
comes up. Else I and my band shall go with you, and 
see that you take nothing. 

Doctor, I have been here before, and shall go now, as 
I am ordered by your great Father. I know the country 
and do not need a guide. 

Chief, This country belongs to us. 

Doctor. I know that the country is Indian territory, 
but the treaty of 1826 allows citizens of the United 
States to visit it. Neither shall I ask consent of the 
chief to take what I please. But, being acquainted with 
the Buffalo, I have no objection to showing him what I 
bring away. 

At this stage of the altercation another canoe came in 
sight, which proved to contain the boys. By this time 
two of the Indians had made free to step into our small 
boat, where they seated themselves with great appear- 
ance of familiarity. The affair would have had enough 
of the ludicrous mingled with its serious aspect to war- 
rant us in making light of it, and holding no further par- 
ley, but for two considerations, which we could not af- 
ford to overlook. Owing to the numerous rapids, the 
barge, Avhich contained our whole stock, could be got up 
only ten miles, while we had to proceed to the forks, 
twenty miles further, in our smaller boat, and thence five 
miles by foot. And in case of a trial of strength with 
the Indians, no dependence could be placed upon our 


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hired voyageurs, most of whom were allied to the oppo- 
site party, both in blood and training. 

Pointing to a bend in the river, our detainers now said, 
** We are determined that you shall not go beyond that 
point to-night.** This audacious order determined us to 
at once break off all conference, so asserting our inten- 
tion to be no longer hindered or delayed, we prepared for 
immediate departure. After some consultation among 
themselves, the chief answered, that if we would then 
and there make them a present of a keg of pork and a 
barrel of flour we would be allowed to proceed, but 
should be expected to bestow a further present to the 
head chief on our return. 

To this bold demand, which plainly appeared to be a 
levy of blackmail, an act of piracy. Dr. Houghton re- 
plied that he would give \}[it,\Xi as a present such things 
as they stood in immediate need of, but nothing more. 
Nor should he recognize the shadow of a right to de- 
mand even that. Accordingly, a bag filled with flour, 
and some pork and tobacco were offered, and the leader 
agreed to accept his present in powder, lead, and provis- 
ions at La Pointe, whither we were bound. 

The parley being at an end, we drew off and pushed up 
the stream. The hostiles remained awhile in consulta- 
tion, and then* withdrew in the opposite direction. A 
few miles above we encamped for the night. 

It was a necessity, as I have stated, to leave our barge 
behind with all our stores, while the exploring party were 
absent for two days and a night. Of course this dilemma 
was known to the enemy. Holding a council of war the 
next morning, it was resolved to leave with our goods 
four of the men, together with the gun. They received 
most positive orders to fire upon the first Indian who 


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touched the baggage, in case any of them should return, 
as we had reason to expect. And our captain added 
with solemn emphasis, that if any man failed in fidelity, 
his own life should pay the forfeit. Having thus played 
upon their fears, we pursued our laborious journey, 
reached the Copper Rock at nightfall, and, tired with the 
day's toils, laid down beneath the cover of the forest and 
slept soundly. 

The next morning we proceeded to the difficult task 
of detaching portions of the metallic mass, which was 
successfully accomplished, and we brought away about 
twenty-five pounds of it. I will here add, that this cop- 
per boulder was, a few years afterwards, removed through 
the agency of Mr. Eldred, of Detroit, and taken to Wash- 
ington, where it enriches the museum of the Smithsonian 
Institution. It is now no novelty to see very much 
larger masses brought down and landed on the dock at 
our smelting works. 

But to conclude the narrative : on reaching camp, on 
our return, we learned that the chief, with several of his 
band, had been there, but had touched nothing, and ac- 
cording to his own account, had taken the trail for Lake 
Flambeau, in order to join a war-party, then organizing, 
of the Chippewas against the Sioux. Notwithstanding 
this story we fully expected to meet these fellows again 
at the mouth, and to whip them there if we could. But 
when we reached the place all was silent, and the lodges 

I will only add to this long story, that bur captain's 
order was never presented. We learned further, on reach- 
ing La Pointe, that the party which waylaid us had known 
of our journey from the first ; that they had " smoked 
over it," had dogged us the whole way up the lake, sub- 

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sisting themselves by fishing, and that when we met they 
were nearly starved. 

I will take my hearers but one stage further before 
closing this excursive ramble. 

A few days brought us to the islands called by Carver 1/ 
" The Apostles.'* On one of the largest of these, Mad- 
eline, at La Pointe, is located a general depot of the 
American Fur Company, for atl the western parts of the 
lake, and the chain of lakes and rivers leading into it. 
It had become, in consequence, an asylum for all the old 
traders of that part of the country, and the temporary 
abode of great numbers of Indians. After pitching our 
tents on the beach, in front of the fort, amid a crowd of 
Indians and equally idle half-breeds, we were welcomed 
by the company's factor. Dr. Borup, Mr. Oakes, the 
factor from Fond-du-lac, and Mr. Bushnell, the Indian 
agent, and invited to all the hospitalities of the place. 

During our whole voyage from the Sault we had not 
seen the face of a white man, except at the mission of 
L' Anse, and a casual fishing party. But here, at the end 
of our wandering, far from what we had been accustomed 
to consider the Hmits of civilization, we were greeted, in 
the families of these gentlemen, not only by features to 
which we had been so long strangers, but by all the at- 
tendant civilized refinements. The dress and manners of 
the East, the free converse with friendly voices of our 
own and the gentler sex, the music of a piano, the sound . 
of the church-going bell and Christian services, seemed to 
us rather like a return to our homes than the extreme of 
a two-months' journey in the wilderness. 

It may interest my hearers to know in more detail 


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what composed a post so remote, and which was to me 
so much a surprise. 

La Pointe at that period was one of those peculiar 
growths known only to an era which has long passed 
away, or been banished to regions still more remote. 
What is called the company's " fort '* consisted of two 
large stores painted red, a long storehouse for fish, at the 
wharf, and a row of neat frame buildings painted white. 
The latter were occupied 'by the half dozen families in 
the company's employ. These dwellings, with the two 
stores, formed opposite sides of a broad street, in the 
centre square of which was planted a large flag-pole. 
Upon this street also clustered sundry smaller and un- 
painted log tenements of the French and half-breeds. 
Half a mile from the fort were the Protestant and Cath- 
olic missions. The former boasted a good frame man- 
sion of two stories, attached to which was a school, num- 
bering thirty scholars. The Catholic mission had a large 
number of followers, including the French and Indians. 
In all, the settlement contained about fifty permanent 
tenements. Beside these were perhaps an equal number 
of Indian lodges, irregularly disposed in vacant spaces, 
and adding to the size and picturesque character of the 
village. Several hundred Indians usually found constant 
employ in the fisheries at* this place. 

This was the oldest, as well as most remote, of the 
Jesuit missions in the North-west, having been established 
by Father Allouez, in 1665. It was then a gathering 
place of many Indian nations, and was hundreds of miles 
from the nearest French settlement. 

It has additional interest from the fact that it witnessed 
the youthful and zealous labors of Pere Marquette, who 
came, in 1669, to take the place of Father Allouez, among 


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the Ottawas, Hurons, and other tribes of the neighbor- 
hood. It was at La Pointe that Marquette planned that 
voyage of first discovery, exploration and missionary en- 
terprise down the Mississippi which has rendered his 
name illustrious. 

In the families I have mentioned might be detected 
an intermixture of Indian blood, which detracts little 
even from the fairness of the daughters, and the ladies 
as well as the gentlemen are intelligent and highly edu- 
cated. Their lives, when not occupied in business, are 
spent in reading and music ; and during the long, cold 
winter, frequent rides are taken on' the ice, upon which 
they pass from island to island in sledges drawn by dogs. 

I could not but picture to my mind, outside of this in- 
telligent circle, the festivities which marked this distant 
post, at that season, in the more palmy days of the fur 
trade ; when it would be crowded with the hangers-on of 
such an establishment, returned from their sojourn in the 
trapping grounds, or their toilsome voyages to and from 
Montreal and Quebec, bent on lavishing away their sea- 
son's earnings in days of idleness or debauch, and in " long 
nights of revelry and ease.** 

Much of this old-time character still remained. The 
motley population, the unique village, the fisheries and 
furs, the Indian dances and pow-wows, the mixture of civ- 
ilization and barbarism, the isolation, broken only by 
occasional and irregular arrivals from the world below, — 
made up a scene for which we were little prepared, which 
will not be easily forgotten, but of which >I can give only 
this meagre description. 


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TION IN 1837. 


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** Primitive liberty, at last I have found thee ! I pass like that bird which 
flies before me, which pursues its way at random, and is embarrassed only 
by the choice of shades. While the inhabitants of the rivers accompany 
my canoe, those of the air sing me their hymns, the beasts of the earth 
salute me, and the forests bow their tops as I pass. 

" "Who can describe the feelings that are experienced on entering these 
forests, coeval with the world, and which alone afford an idea of the crea- 
tion, such as it issued from the hands of the Almighty."— Chateaubriand, 
Travels in America^ I79i» 


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IN 1837.* 

A RECENT paper read before this society, giving an 
interesting description of the Saginaw Valley as 
seen in 1850, suggests some incidents of an expedition 
into the same valley, in which the writer of this had a 
share, thirteen years before. At the request of your 
president, I have undertaken to jot down some of my 
reminiscences of that journey. These, if they have no 
other interest, may serve to show the progress of enter- 
prise and settlement in that region, and bring into con- 
trast its feeble beginning and privations of the past, with 
its present abounding prosperity. 

In 1837, the State of Michigan, then in the first year 
of its young but vigorous existence, organised a State 
Geological Survey ; but the scanty appropriation sufficed 
only to enable its projector to accomplish, during that 
year, a limited reconnoissance. This extended, neverthe- 
less, to some degree, into the almost unexplored portion 
of the lower peninsula. 

Salt springs were known to exist, particularly in the 
vicinity of Grand and Saginaw rivers, and the few facts 
known of the rocks which constituted most of the coast 
lines, and made occasional outcrops in the interior, were 
sufficient to indicate the probability of the existence of 
coal and gypsum. 

♦Read before the Detroit Pioneer Society, Jan., 1872. 



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It was required, by the act establishing the survey, that 
an examination and report upon the salt springs should 
be made at the end of the first season. 

It is my intention to relate some of the incidents of a 
trip — or short campaign, if I may so term it — made in the 
fall of 1837, for the purpose of making an examination of 
these springs, and such other geological discoveries as 
might be made, in the country traversed by those great 
natural highways, the streams tributary to the Saginaws. 

The party consisted of four individuals : Dr. Houghton, 
the State geologist, and three assistants, — Mr. C. C. 
Douglass, the writer, and — a dog. 

The latter was no inconsequential member of the corps, 
and had, like the rest, his appointed duties to perform. 
Dask was his name ; indicative also of his nature. 

This was before the day of railroads, although the 
young State had already projected its magnificent scheme 
of internal improvements, and for a considerable part of 
our contemplated route there were no highways but the 
streams. Our plan was to reach, by private conveyance, 
some point on the Shiawassee River, whence we could 
embark in a canoe and descend to the Saginaw. 

Loading into a wagon at Detroit our few traps, which 
consisted of a tent, provisions, an axe and a gun, in the 
afternoon of Sept. 13, 1837, we proceeded as far as Royal 
Oak, where we encamped by the roadside, in the inde- 
pendent mode common to immigrants at that period. 
To the writer the situation had the charm which youth 
always finds in novelty. 

I will not detain you with incidents, and will only 
mention the few villages through which we passed. 

Prominent among these was Pontiac. The first settler, 
Mr. Williams, came to this place in 18 17 or 18 18, with an 


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exploring party, among whom was Governor Cass. This 
whole region was then supposed to be an interminable 
morass, and so wild and dangerous was this expedition 
thought to be, that the party, before setting forth, took 
leave of their friends with all the solemnity befitting so 
grave an occasion. 

At the time of my visit, Pontiac was a pretty, business- 
like place. It had been settled 13 years, but had just re- 
ceived incorporation by the legislature. It has alvuays 
retained its bustling character, while growing rapidly 
from a thriving hamlet into a beautiful and well built 

The surrounding country seemed to our eyes far enough 
removed from the gloomy morass which wild imagina- 
tion had depicted it, 20 years before. It appeared to me 
the most beautiful the sun ever shone upon. It was of 
the character then beginning to be classed as** openings,** 
characterized by a gravelly soil and a sparse growth of 
oaks and hickories. I speak in the past tense, because, 
though the rural beauty of the country is still unrivalled, 
little remains of the original character of the openings. 
This is a result partly of the process of cultivation, and 
partly of the thick growth of small timber that has cov- 
ered all the uncultivated portions since the annual fires 
have ceased, which kept down the underbrush. 

Elevated 400 feet above Detroit River, broken into hills 
and knobs, which rise frequently 100 feet and more above 
the surrounding surface, with intervening vales and hol- 
lows, forming basins for lakes of the clearest water ; in 
the midst of a park of nature's sole forming, inimitable by 
the hand of art, this lake region of Michigan deserves 
its celebrity. 

But at the period I allude to, no straight-fenced roads 


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shut in the highway, and travellers might wind at will 
through the superb natural park, trampling down only the 
flowers that in many places created glowing parterres ; 
catching many a bright reflection from the limpid lakes, 
and sometimes stealing distant sight of a herd of deer, 
scarcely more wild than the peaceful landscape over 
which they roamed. Climbing a tree on one of the most 
elevated knobs, I had a view over probably the whole of 
Oakland County : seven lakes lay at my feet ; on the 
north and west undulations, like heavy swells of the sea, 
and on the east a level plain, stretching to the horizon 
like an pcean^s verge. 

Byron, in the south-east corner of Shiawassee County, 
was the termination of our wagon journey. The name 
had long occupied a prominent place on all the old maps 
of Michigan,— at that time a decade was antiquity, — and 
held out to the newcomer the promise of a large and 
thriving village. The reality was disappointing. It pos- 
sessed — all told — a mill and two houses. 

Fentonville, though of more recent origin, had out- 
grown it, and boasted a tavern, a store, and several frame 

At Byron we exchanged our wagon for a canoe, and 
commenced a descent of Shiawassee River. 

From Byron to Owasso, about twenty miles direct (but 
many more by the course of the stream), our way lay 
mostly through land more heavily timbered, but varied 
with openings and occasional plains. Through this part 
of the county roads had been opened, and settlements 
had made rapid progress. 

We were now to make our way by the aid of the cur- 
rent, but this meant not all plain-sailing nor luxurious en- 
joyment. The river was interrupted by numerous rapids. 


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of difficult if not dangerous navigation, and over these 
shallows we had to drag the canoe. As this necessitated 
getting into the water, we were provided with water-tight 
boots, that turned up to the thighs. 

At the approach of night a favorable landing was se- 
lected, and a new division of labor took place. While 
one cleared the spot and pitched the tent, another cut 
wood for the fire, and a third prepared the evening meal. 
Your humble servant, being installed into the ancient and 
honorable dignity of cook, had this duty to perform. 
Any one who has sweetened his food with the sauce of 
hunger knows how little culinary art is requisite to satisfy 
famishing guests. Indeed, a piece of fat pork, fried upon 
a stick over the camp fire, after hours of labor in the 
wilderness, is a morsel sweeter than any which the pam- 
pered epicure knows. To this standard dish our one gun 
enabled us to add such small game as we chose to take 
the trouble to obtain. 

But my position involved also a duty which might be 
supposed of less easy accomplishment ; viz., the cleaning 
of the dishes. Fortunately, I was permitted to make free 
of the assistance of the fourth member of our family. 
Dash, being properly educated to this service, was not al- 
lowed his own dinner until he had thoroughly and im- 
partially scoured our tin plates and sauce-pan ; in which 
duty, I must do him the justice to say, he proved a skil- 
ful adept. Indeed, after long experience, I am prepared 
to recommend a dog*s tongue as more effectual than 
any dish-cloth, with all the aids of hot water and soap. 
After this process, a simple rinsing in the clear water of 
the river constituted all the additional operation that the 
most fastidious could demand. 

Several years had passed since the extinguishment of 


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the Indian title to the lands of the Chippewas, who had 
claimed this part of the peninsula. But many and exten- 
sive reservations lined the Shiawassee and other of the 
tributaries of the Saginaw, and the natives had as yet felt 
too little of that fatal spell which falls upon them with 
the very beginning of the white settlements, to have 
abandoned much of their old habits. 

As we followed down the stream, memorials of the 
present and recent Indian occupation were frequent. 
Sometimes we passed huts, constructed of poles, and 
thatched with bark, but only a few squaws and children 
were visible. At one place on the bank were ten graves, 
over which a sort of tomb had been erected, built of logs. 
Trails were frequent, and on one of these we came upon 
a tree containing an Indian symbolic epistle. There 
were figures of men and horses, but we were unable to 
decipher the meaning. At another place was a cache 
or pit for hiding provisions. 

Many of the Indian clearings stretched for several con- 
tinuous miles, and many acres bordering the river were 
covered with the luxuriant maize, — the chief cultivated 
food of the natives. These plantations receive the name 
of villages, because they are resorted to by the tribes 
at the periods of cultivation and harvest. But, in fact, 
these people had no fixed habitations, but wandered, like 
the Arabs — their Eastern cousins — from place to place, in 
patriarchal bands, finding such subsistence as the woods 
and waters afforded, and pursuing the occupation of 
trapping and barter with the Indian traders. 

At this time, also, they were much scattered by the 
small-pox, a disease recently introduced by the whites, 
and which had proved very fatal to the aboriginal inhab- 
itants of this part of Michigan. 

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Indian trading-houses were a frequent feature, that 
served to connect the wildness of savage life with the in- 
coming civilization. 

. Five miles above Shiawassee town was a small Indian 
village, upon what was known as Knaggs* Reservation, 
and at a short distance was the house of a trader — Beau- 
bien. Williams, the first settler, came here six years be- 
fore (183 1), and opened a trading-store, as an agent of 
that extensive enterprise — the American Fur Company. 
A frame house had since been erected, and a few acres 
cleared, — the small beginning of one of those invasions 
of the Saxon upon the Savage which, in an incredibly 
short period, will leave the latter not even his grave. 

Shiawassee town, at this time, contained a dozen log 
cabins, and as many frames unfinished. One of these 
was of quite superior construction, and indicative of the 
era of speculation through which the country had passed. 
It was three stories in height, and designed for a hotel. 
The whole village was under mortgage, and was adver- 
tised to be sold at public vendue. 

Corunna, the county seat, we found to consist oione log 
house, situated upon the bank of the river, and occupied 
by a Mr. Davis, who, a year before, and soon after the 
organization of the county, had made an entry here. A 
steam mill was in process of erection. About twenty 
acres of land had been cleared and planted ; and never 
did crystal stream lave a more fertile soil. 

Three miles below was " located " the village of Owas- 
so, already a thriving settlement, containing a dozen log 
buildings, one frame one, and a saw-mill. 

With the exception of a few scattered settlers upon 
the plains, south of the line of the present Detroit and 
Milwaukee Railway, such constituted the entire white 
population of Shiawassee County. 


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In the early part of the season, during the progress of 
the geological survey, beds of bituminous coal had been 
discovered in the bank of Grand River, in Ingham and 
Eaton counties, and the rocks met with through the 
central part of Shiawassee — belonging to the "coal 
measures** — gave hope of finding an outcrop. Pros- 
pecting was accordingly commenced by us at Corunna, 
but, with the slender means at command, did not prove 
successful. Yet sufficient was determined, from the 
character and dip of the rocks, and other indications, to 
warrant a recommendation to the settlers to continue 
the investigation. The result was the finding of coal at 
Corunna, soon after ; which, though not of very remu- 
nerative thickness, has been used to considerable extent 
ever since. 

I will add, that the year's explorations determined the 
boundaries of the southerly half of the coal basin of 
Michigan. Its extent to the north yet remains a prob- 
lem, to be solved by the hardy pioneers and explorers, 
who, for a few years past, have been at work so de- 
terminedly to bring into the markets of the world that 
rich and important portion of our State. 

A mile below Owasso we passed the last of the white 
clearings, and made our night's encampment within Big 
Rock Reservation, twelve miles below that village, and 
twenty miles from Saginaw. 

We had now entered upon the wild and primeval 
forest, extending in a solitude unbroken by any human 
sight or sound, except the cabin of the natives and the 
hut of the Indian trader, to the shores of the upper 
lakes. For the first time I was startled in my slumbers 
by the "wolfs long howl,*' mingled with the hooting 
of an owl 


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Hitherto we had encountered at every few miles the 
cabin of some adventurous pioneer, for whom the forests 
had no terrors, but now we were alone with Nature. We 
could appreciate, in its full extent, the solitude, the 
boundlessness, the sublimity of this earliest of earth's 
offspring, — the grand, old, untutored forest. 

He who has only traversed woodlands where, at every 
few miles, he meets a road leading to civilized belong- 
ings, knows little of the sense of awe inspired by a forest 
solitude that has never echoed to the woodman's axe, 
and where every footstep conducts only into regions 
more mysterious and unknown. 

The woods of this part of Michigan comprised a 
very mingled growth. Oaks, not gnarled and spreading, 
as in more open lands, but at once massive and tall, and 
centuries old ; the elm, that most graceful and majestic of 
trees of any land ; the tulip or whitewood, magnificent in 
size and height above even the Titans of the forest ; the 
broad and green-leaved linden ; the clean-bodied beech ; 
the saccharine maples, 50 superb in their autumnal dresses, 
— dyed like Joseph's coat of many colors ; the giant syc- 
amore, ghost-like, with its white, naked limbs; — these 
are the common habitants of the forest ; with other 
kinds, each possessing its peculiar grace, and a use and 
beauty almost unknown in other lands. 

We had reached, too, the latitude of the evergreens, 
which from hence northward, to the farthest limits, 
become a distinguishing feature of the Michigan forests, 
imparting to them a more wonderful variety and 
majesty. Many a towering pine, 1 50 feet in height, now 
began to lift its head above its fellow inhabiters, green 
through youth and age, through verdure and frost. In 
many places the desert gloom was deepened by the 


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dense and sombre shade of hemlocks, which bent their 
graceful spray to the earth, and almost shut out the light 
of day 

We took the measure of a white oak that stood at 
the border of the timbered land and the openings, which 
I here note as worthy of record. It was thirty-five feet 
in circumference, — nearly twelve feet diameter. A very 
respectable tree to be found out of California. 

No kind of travel can be imagined more romantically 
charming than that of floating down the current of one 
of these large and rapid streams that water this portion 
of Michigan, piercing the heart of the trackless wilder- 
ness. The trees along the banks, instead of forming up- 
right walls, exhibiting the naked trunks of the tall wood- 
land monarchs, throw out thick branches to the sunHght, 
which bend gracefully to the water, as if to form a screen 
to the forest depths. Wild fowl are easily approached 
at almost every bend, affording an ample supply of fresh 
food without the fatigue of hunting, and at night the 
camp is made beneath the leafy arches, and lulled by 
the murmur of the stream or the roar of the wind in 
the pine tops. 

Descending now a wider stream, with a smooth and 
gentle current, we passed, successively, the mouths of 
these long feeders to the greater stream, — the Flint, the 
Cass and the Tittabawassee, — and on the 23d September 
were opposite Saginaw City. 

The last few miles had presented to our view the first 
irreclaimable marsh we had seen, and here there was 
plenty of it. The " City ** occupied -what seemed to be 
the only considerable elevation for many miles, being 
about thirty feet above the river. 

The paper read to you by Mr. Jennison gave so full 


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and minute a history of the settlement of the Saginaw 
Valley that I avoid repetition. I will only refresh your 
recollection, by stating that the general Government 
erected a fort here in 1820, and at the same time was 
established a centre of Indian trade, by the American- 
Fur Company. The country had been visited by General 
Cass the year previous, and a treaty effected with the 
native chiefs, by which the lands of the Chippewas were 
ceded to the United States. 

The oldest settlement for farming purposes was made 
about 1829, and the present site of Saginaw City laid 
out in 1835. This was just before the height of that mad 
fever of speculation into which so many plunged wildly, 
and which built in the wilderness many prospective cities, 
most of them existing only in the privileged future or on 
paper plots. Saginaw was one of the few that had good 
foundation for its celebrity ; though as yet there had been 
little realization of its dreams of future greatness. 

My notes record that the city comprised nearly fifty 
frame houses, four stores — one a handsome dry gdods 
and grocery store, on a large scale — two warehouses, 
and another in progress, a small church, two steam saw- 
mills, and, in process of erection, a large edifice, to be 
called the " Webster House '* ; this already made a sightly 
appearance, being 60 by 80 feet. All were of wood. 
The stockades of the fort still remained ; they were some 
ten feet in height, and surrounded about an acre. I 
believe that the abandonment of this fortress was occa- 
sioned by sickness among the troops^ in 1824, three- 
fourths of the garrison being ill at once of the fevers of 
the country. 

I can add but few to the list of names illustrious in 
the Saginaw annals, already given you, but I met there, 


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and I well remember, the Littles — Norman and William 
P. ; Hiram Miller and James Fraser; Judge Riggs, 
Mr. Watson and Mr. Lyon ; — men to whose energy and 
practical wisdom the valley owes so large a share of 
its prosperity. 

It has been stated that the mill known as Emerson*s 
was erected in 1834. I have no recollection of any mill 
on the east side at the date I record, and the distin- 
guished individual whose name it bearS was, at that time, 
still delighting the happy citizens of Detroit by his curt 
and vehement eloquence. If three mills existed at Sagi- 
naw in the fall of 1837, they were certainly the only 
ones (with one exception) upon that river, as the "City ** 
was the only settlement, if we except a few solitary cabins. 

Where now the busy and populous cities of East Sc^gi- 
naw, Bay City, Winona and Portsmouth, numbering 
their many thousands, stretch almost into a continuous 
village, for twenty miles below, where the clangor of 
a hundred mills mingles with the puff of steamers and 
the scream of the locomotive, and a scene of industry, 
enterprise and thrift is exhibited which few spots on 
this earth can rival, was at the period of my visit a sol- 
itude, resonant only with the grand, still voices of 
Nature. Beyond the settlement immediately about 
the " City,'* extended the untrimmed forest, as vast 
and almost as undisturbed as when, to the eyes of De 
Tocqueville, it was "a real desert.** 

Having advanced so far with my narrative, I ought, 
perhaps, in the manner of story-tellers, — though mine is 
no fiction, — to give a description of the personal appear- 
ance of my personages. 

Though nearly a generation has passed since the 
death of Dr. Houghton, no doubt most of those here 


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present well remember the peculiar characteristics of one 
not easily forgotten ; — his diminutive stature — his keen 
blue eye, — his quick, active motions, — the strong sense 
and energy of his words, when dealing with matters of 
science, and his indomitable perseverance in carrying out 
his designs. They well remember, too, his love of fun, 
and his hilarious manner of telling a comic story. Of 
such he had a large fund, and a happy way of using ; 
preserving a grave countenance until he got through, 
and then joining in the laugh with a peculiar cachina- 
tion, so contagious as to be alone sufficient to set every 
one in a roar. 

He was no carpet knight of science, and on his geolog- 
ical excursions never flinched from hard work and ex- 

On these occasions he usually wore a suit of gray, the 
coat having large side-pockets, and hanging loosely 
upon his small frame. The hands and feet were very 
small, but the latter were incased in boots that came 
almost to his thighs. • His shocking bad hat was broad- 
brimmed and slouched, almost concealing his face, and 
his whole appearance was that of a battered, weather- 
worn backwoodsman. 

I remember meeting him a few years later, when his 
scientific mind and energetic body had unravelled the 
mysteries of the mineral region of Lake Superior, and 
when the new fame of that region had called hosts of 
scientists to those yet wild shores. He had just landed 
at Eagle River, fresh from one of his rough expeditions, 
and was immediately hailed and surrounded by men 
known over the whole land for their scientific learning, 
to whose figures and bearing his own presented a strik- 
ing contrast. Yet these men bowed to his superior 


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knowledge, — sagacity I might term it ; and one of them 
frankly said in my hearing, that the little, rough-looking 
Doctor carried more true knowledge in his cranium 
" than all the big heads put together.*' 

I am the more reminded of the personal app^rance 
of our party by an incident which occurred, on occasion 
of our return to Saginaw from a similar expedition, in 
the following spring. We happened to be there at the 
time of the marriage of a sister of Mr. Little, and were 
among the distinguished guests invited to the wedding. 
Now it chanced that one of the corps — I will not say 
who — had, with false economy, donned for the expedi- 
tion a suit of old clothes, which proved to be unequal to 
the rough usage imposed upon them. When we reached 
Saginaw he was literally in tatters. A hole garnished 
each elbow ; another became visible when either arm was 
raised. I have already alluded to the uncouth boots we 
wore. They were outside the pantaloons, and when 
not on river service, the wide tops were turned down from 
the knee. The soles had uncommon width, the rule 
which regulated surveyors* boots being that these shall 
project so far beyond the uppers that a mouse might 
run round on them. 

As the other members of the corps were in little 
better condition,-^none of us having a wedding garment, 
— we would gladly have tendered our regrets, but the 
persuasive words of our host were not to be withstood. 

When I say that we went, I shall only add, that al- 
though an apparition so unusual, among a company of 
well dressed ladies and gentlemen, might well have oc- 
casioned remark, the good sense and true politeness of 
our host and his guests saved us mortification, and left 
no cause to repent the venture. 


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As I have undertaken to describe the personnel of our 
party, I must not omit some further mention of its 
fourth member. Dash was of spaniel breed, and fond 
of the water. In the supply of our larder he performed 
the service of bringing to our boat the wild-fowl that 
we occasionally shot, and which was abundant in these 
waters. Nature had furnished him with capacious jaws, 
which no game could escape, when once within their 
grip. He had a habit of coming upon game with his 
mouth wide open. 

On one occasion, seeing what he supposed to be a 
bird floating, he swam towards it, with mouth stretched 
as usual, and making a grab, his jaws came together with 
a sudden and loud snap over a piece of foam. Never 
was dog more puzzled. He looked about with an air of 
great amazement, and returned, very sheepishly, to be 
drawn into the boat. 

I will relate another anecdote, as showing how he im- 
proved in his scientific education. On a future occasion, 
being sent out for a wounded " diver," and not compre- 
hending the resource of that active and sharp-witted 
fowl, on the dog*s near approach the duck suddenly 
dived out of sight. Dash was in evident bewilderment, 
and unable to account for the sudden disappearance. 
But he was not a dog to be discouraged by so difficult a 
problem, and after the trick had been several times re- 
peated, a glimmer of the true state of the case entered 
his canine brain. This accomplished, he was equal to 
the emergency; for when the diver again went down Dash 
followed, and both were for some time out of sight. But 
the dog came up victor, with the bird in his mouth. 

As it was in our plan to inspect the salt springs on 
the Tittabawassee, we had forwarded to Saginaw from 


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Detroit supplies of biscuit, relying upon the country for 
our pork. But none was to be had, and we were com- 
pelled to resume our journey as destitute of that im- 
portant item as were the poor inhabitants themselves, 
who, with a large stock of merchandise, and the great 
name of City, were awaiting the arrival of a schooner to 
obtain the common necessaries of life. It was to be 
hoped they were better off for intellectual food, for the 
place supported a public journal. 

Having obtained an order for a more suitable canoe 
and a guide, we bade temporary adieu to Saginaw 
(September 25), but were forced by a heavy rain to 
seek shelter at the house of a Mr. Gardner, a short dis- 
tance above, where, fortunately, we procured a few pounds 
of pork. Here, at evening, a few neighbors dropped in, 
and we consumed the time pleasantly in tales of hunt- 
ing adventures and fearful Indian murders ! 

The next day found us at a village of the Chippewas 
sixteen miles from Saginaw. It consisted of a few 
lodges, mostly deserted, small-pox having nearly exter- 
minated the band. 

At the forks of the Tittabawassee and Pine rivers we 
found several log cabins, one of which had been occupied 
as a trading-post. They were inhabited, by half-breeds. 
A Frenchman, with his two Indian wives, occupied the 

It was still common enough to find, along the shores 
of the great lakes and rivers, which had been so long the 
highways of those lawless rangers, — the Coureurs de bois, 
— during the flourishing period of the fur trade, the 
cabin of a Canadian, who, with his Indian wife or wives 
and a troop of half-breed children, had completely 
adopted the native habits. He lived a half-vagabond 


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life, depending upon fishing and trapping, and sometimes 
finding employment as a voyageur. 

A fair specimen of this class was our gpide, Pierre 
Gruet. Of mixed French and Indian blood, it was hard 
to tell of which character he most partook. Equally at 
home in the Canadian cabin and the Indian wigwam, he 
seemed to be acquainted with every individual of either 
race that we met, and had a world of talk to unburden 
himself of whenever we passed a lodge or met a canoe. 
French joviality was in him united with savage wilful- 
ness. Well enough when confined to his profession of 
guide and interpreter ; as a worker, one American was 
worth a dozen of him. 

Opposite these forks of the river had been " located ** 
the village of Midland;* but it was a village without 

Ascending to Salt River, we completed such examina- 
tion of the springs as the heavy rains of the season per- 
mitted. The year following, the State commenced a 
boring for a salt well near this point, but after a season's 
labor, with favorable results, the many discouragements 
attending the work caused its abandonment. Not the 
least of these was the necessity of sending to Detroit, 
with long delays and great expense, for everything 
needed, even for repairs of the augers. It was not until 
many years afterwards, and when along these vast water- 
courses populous towns had sprung up, that the conclu 
sions of science were brought to a full practical test, by 
the establishment of salt wells on the Saginaw; with 
what success you are all familiar. 

I will only say, that in strength and purity the salt of 

* Now a flourishing city of four thousand inhabitants (1885). 


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the Saginaw Valley is fully equal to the celebrated arti- 
cle so extensively made in Central New York ; that it 
can be more cheaply manufactured ; and, with the increas- 
ing facilities for market, is destined to be a very impor- 
tant part of the wealth of Michigan. Already Saginaw 
furnishes a supply one-half as large as the famous Onon- 

We had now penetrated into the wilderness, many 
miles beyond the most remote of the settlements of the 
AnglorSaxon. Wild game was very abundant, but we 
had not the time nor means to pursue it. Besides deer, 
we had often seen along the shore tracks of the elk, 
and sometimes of the moose, — an animal almost extinct. 
Occasionally an otter raised his head above the water, or 
plunged into it from the bank. We found fresh marks of 
the labors of the beaver, — that most interesting creature, 
once existing hereabouts in immense numbers, and now 
quite hunted to the death. We had shot a snow-owl 
and driven an eagle from his eyry, and had been regaled 
with bear's meat, furnished us by the Indians. 

How lovely, to our unaccustomed eyes, did nature 
appear in these solitudes ! The first frosts had fallen, 
and tinged the maples with yellow, orange and crimson ; 
the beech was beginning to assume its russet coat, and 
the hickories their brilliant yellow, gleaming, in the soft- 
ened autumn sun, like towers of gold ! The river banks, 
densely wooded, and overrun by the scarlet ivy, were 
truly magnificent. In strong contrast with these brill- 
iant colors of the autumn was the dark green — almost 
black, in the shadow of the thick woodland — of the hem- 
lock and fir, amid which shone the white bark of the 
silver birch, and above all reared the verdant heads of 
many a lofty pine. 


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As yet no lumberman's axe had sought to desecrate 
these glorious shades, nor the speculator to count the 
dollars that lay hid in the hearts of these mighty pines. 

But marvellous changes were in the not distant future. 

The traffic in lumber, in the region watered by the 
Saginaw and its tributaries, which had hardly its begin- 
ning a decade after the period I am describing, has in 
our day reached dimensions of which the wildest brain 
could not then have dreamed. The main river, for 
twenty miles from thq city of Saginaw to its mouth, i§ 
lined with mills. Mainly from this source of wealth 
numerous cities have sprung into vigorous existence, and 
five hundred millions of feet of lumber are sent annually, 
by water and rail, south, east and west, thousands of 
miles. Michigan pine is in demand, -even within the 
sound of the lumber woods of Maine and Pennsylvania. 

I recently visited Midland, not, as before, by the slow 
progress of a little boat propelled by hands, but in the 
magnificent cars of the Flint & Pere Marquette Railway, 
transported by the wings of steam. Where, in 1837, was 
laid the wilderness city of Midland, — a site without an 
inhabitant, and approachable only by the river, — now 
stands the busy, prosperous county seat. A railway 
connects it with Saginaw, and is rapidly bearing its iron - 
shod feet far beyond, and joining hands with those vigor- 
ous pioneers on our western coasts, that are rapidly push- 
ing on to the Straits of Mackinac. A street of shops, 
hotels and public buildings, parallel with the river, forms 
the centre to a town which covers, scatteringly, a mile 
sqiiare, with its churches, mills and comfortable homes. 

I passed forty miles further on to the north-west. The 
scene was a revelation. We are accustomed to regard 
the railroad as a creation that follows in the wake of 


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man*s progress. Here it is the pioneer, the precursor of 
civilization. It has pierced the heart of the hitherto 
unbroken wilderness ; cutting for itself a narrow path, 
where, on either side, tall pines and other trees rise into a 
straight and lofty wall, admitting no prospect, except 
the narrow line of light that diminishes to a thread in 
the distance. No time has been allowed for clearings 
and the ordinary attendants of cultivation. These are 
all to follow. But saw-mills have sprung up along its 
magic path, and line the road so thickly that, for nearly 
the whole distance, I might count an average of two 
mills to every mile; and all this accomplished within 
little more than a year. 

Having accomplished our river explorations, we pre- 
pared for an expedition attended with some danger at 
that late season, for the month of October had come. 
This was a coasting voyage, from Saginaw to Port 
Huron, performed in the canoe which had been procured 
at the Chippewa Reservation. It was a " dug-out *' of 
wood, thirty feet long, but so narrow, that, seated in the 
line of the centre, we could use a paddle on either side. 
In this puny craft we were to undertake, in the midcSe 
of autumn, a lake journey of 150 miles. 

We descended the Saginaw, which then exhibited few 
indications of its coming greatness. 

East Saginaw had no existence. The village of Car- 
rolton had been plotted, four miles below Saginaw City, 
and consisted of a two-story log house, used years lang- 
syne as a trading-post. 

Portsmouth contained a steam mill, four log cabins 

and two board shanties, lying just above high-water 


Lower Saginaw — now Bay City — occupied somewhat 


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higher ground, and boasted a pretty frame office used as 
a chapel, and two or more log hots. It was an infant of 
one year. In^ preparation was the frame of a hotel, 
which, in accordance with the usual custom of the flush 
times, — already sadly gone, — was large enough to accom- 
modate half the county. 

I must here mention a fact which 1 have never seen 
alluded to ; viz., that we found at several places along 
the river, and sparingly on the Tittabawassee, apple trees. 
They produced agreeable fruit, and some were apparently 
of a century's growth. I will not speculate upon their 
origin ; whether the seeds were brought here in the fruit, 
and accidentally planted, by the voyageurs and coureurs 
de bois, from the French orchards of Canada, or whether 
they have a date still more remote. It is curious to 
notice that some of the earliest travellers allude to or- 
chards, then in profuse bearing, upon islands in the De- 
troit River. I leave the problem to the antiquary. 

Emerging into the bay we encountered, at the Kaw- 
kalin River, the last trace of civilized footsteps which we 
were to see for many days. It was a camp of United 
States surveyors, — the Rousseaus, — where we were enter- 
tained for the night, with all the hospitality which it is 
common to find among those who dwell beyond the pale 
of "good society." Unfortunately for our appreciation 
of these good fellows, it subsequently appeared that the 
returns of these surveyors were so made-up and false 
that entire townships had to be re-surveyed by the 
Government. Corruption in places of public trust is not 
alone of modern origin. 

Memorials of the native inhabitants were still frequent. 
Upon a swelling knoll overlooking the bay, in the midst 
of a tract of country from which all the timber had been 

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burned, was a spot which seemed to have been dedicated 
to the evil Manitou. Here an altar was erected, composed 
of two large stones, several feet in height, with a flat top 
and broad base. About were smaller stones, which were 
covered with propitiatory offerings, — bits of tobacco, 
pieces of tin, flints, and such articles, of little value to the 
Indian, as, with religious philosophy, he dedicates to his 
Manitou. The place had witnessed, doubtless, many an 
Indian powwow. 

In the interest of the scientific object of our tour I will 
here observe, that near Au Gres River we discovered, be- 
neath the clear waters of the bay, a bed of gypsum. 
Subsequently, an outcrop of this mineral was found on 
the neighboring land, and has been long quarried with 

Some islands lay several miles from shore, upon our 
approach to which, immense numbers of gulls, that had 
here their secure retreat and breeding-places, wheeled 
about us, uttering loud cries. The young ones were 
easily caught, and we found a few eggs. Here also sport 
of an unusual kind awaited us. In the waves that broke 
among the boulders along the shore, sturgeon were gam- 
bolling. So intent were they upon their play, and so igno- 
rant of man's superior cunning, that, springing in among 
them, after a vigorous tussle we threw one ashore, with 
no other aid than our hands. It stocked our larder for 
several days, with its variety of meat, — fish, fowl and — 
Albany beef. 

Of our further voyage, until we rounded Point Aux 
Barques, I have nothing to note, beyond the usual adven- 
tures and delays that attend mariners in so perilous a 
craft, upon the treacherous waves of Saginaw Bay. The 
toils of the day were compensated by the sweetest of 

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slumbers, when, having supped on pork and hard bread, 
wrapped each in his blanket, we fell asleep beneath the 
soft influence of the Pleiades. 

At the point alluded to the coast is iron-bound, afford- 
ing no harbor, and being thickly wooded with evergreens, 
its aspect was forbidding and gloomy. Add to this, that 
the waves are incessantly lashing the rocks, which receive 
the whole fury of the sea, whether the wind be from the 
lake on the right or the broad bay on the left. This 
action of the waters has caused channels to be worn 
through large masses of the friable sandstone, which, 
tumbling into the lake, form small islets. 

In doubling the cape, the voyageur is struck with the 
singular appearance of two projecting masses, detached 
from the main, and covered with timber. They bear 
close resemblance to the bows of vessels, with the hulls 
exposed down to the keel. The bowsprit and sides are 
nearly perfect. They are about 50 feet in the beam, and 
16 to 20 in height. Nature seems often to delight in 
such mimicry of the works of man. The name which 
was bestowed by the French, at an early day, continues 
still significant of the mimic resemblance. 

Near White Rock, on Ihe Lake Huron coast, 50 miles 
from its outlet, at the boundary of the then surveyed por- 
tion of Sanilac County, we found a settler, — the first we 
had met since leaving Saginaw River. Mr. Allen had 
been here three months, and, with five hands, was erect- 
ing a saw-mill on a dashing little brook that had nearly 
swamped us in entering. He had no neighbor, but the 
mistress of the house informed us they had been all sum- 
mer in expectation and promise of the settlement at 
White Rock City of 200 families. 

The annals of this place constitute one of those chap- 


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ters of romance, of which the records of 1835 and 1836 are 
so replete. Before the rage of real-estate speculation 
was at its height, and all through that wild fever, we had 
known of *' White Rock City/' 

Maps, executed in the highest style of the topographic 
art, — displayed in hotel bar-rooms and other public 
places, where congregated the thousand seekers after the 
fortune that courted the happy possessor of valuable lots 
and water privileges, — had announced its unrivalled situ- 
ation and advantages. They depicted the magnificent 
harbor, at the mouth of a large stream, into which steam- 
boats were entering. Saw-mills were converting the for- 
ests into houses. Around the Public Square clustered a 
Court-house, churches, and other public buildings, not 
omitting the inevitable Bank, and the air of prosperity 
which pervaded the place was evident at a glance. Auc- 
tioneers had sounded its praises, and struck off its lots, 
at popular prices, to eager buyers. None of the rising 
cities for which Michigan had become famous had so 
wide a celebrity, and distributed stock so liberally. 

And now we were to see, with our own eyes, this west- 
ern marvel, or at least its ruins. 

A large white boulder in the 'lake marked the entrance, 
and gave name to this modern Karnac. We found the 
entering river. It hardly admitted our log canoe. Har- 
bor there was none. Churches, houses, mills, people, 
— all were a myth. A thick wilderness covered the whole 
site. Excepting Mr. Allen, it was 40 miles to the nearest 
inhabitant. Where the Public Square had been depicted 
stood several large beech trees. On one of these we 
carved the names of our party, who were thus registered, 
for the benefit of future visitors, as the first guests of the 
^^ White Rock Hotel.'' 


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It may serve more fully to show the adventurous char- 
acter of our expedition, if I close this narrative by some 
detail of our last day*s experience,— perhaps not a very 
unusual one in canoe navigation. It may serve, too, to 
illustrate the risks incurred by our daring chief ; some- 
times too rashly, and, alas ! once too often ! 

On the night of October 11, we encamped 22 miles 
from Fort Gratiot, and congratulated ourselves on the 
near conclusion of our journey. For this there was* 
reason, as our provisions were gone and the weather was 
stormy. Here a hard wind detained us a day, and the 
morning succeeding showed the waters risen several feet, 
and rolling in huge breakers. To proceed by water 
seemed impossible, but there was no travelled road to 
Black River, and our provisions were exhausted. For 
several days we had been on rations, and our poor canine 
friend, who at the outset could not eat duck meat, was 
glad to swallow a wing, — feathers and all. A council of 
war decided to trust once more to the boisterous waves, 
which our frail craft had hitherto borne us over in safety. 

Raising the boat upon rollers, we packed in tent and 
bags — the latter now heavy with " specimens '* — so ar- 
ranged as to make three partitions, established Dash in 
his place, while the rest took each his station. Thus ap- 
pointed, we ran rapidly out into the water, leaped aboard, 
and pulled from the land. The launch was neatly effect- 
ed, but danger was ahead. Encountering the breakers we 
at once shipped a sea, which completely filled the fore- 
most division. This was occupied by the Doctor, who 
cried, "We are swamped.'* But a pail stood ready to 
each hand. The Doctor bailed while the others pulled 
stoutly on their paddles, and we were soon beyond the 
breakers. Return was now impossible. The temperature 


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was at freezing, and we received a ducking from many a 
white-cap that chilled us to the marrow. Our little boat 
was a morsel for the waves, and when one of those huge 
swells — the three sisters, as sailors call them — lifted us 
up, we seemed hurrying inevitably to the shore, and when 
it receded its crest concealed everything but the sky 
and the watery horizon. We could not raise sail without 
danger of running under, and many a wave-crest must be 
beaten back with our paddles, and our pails were seldom 

But ** the longest day will have an end,** and after five 
hours endurance, wet, exhausted and hungry, we landed 
at the light-house. Thence we descended to Black River, 
two miles below, where the village of Port Huron was in 
the second year of its infancy. From here a steam-boat 
conveyed us to Detroit. 

Thus ended our adventurous journey, ** by flood and 

I have only to add, that if my long-drawn gossip 
has contributed to your entertainment, or given any 
clearer impression of the Michigan of 34 years ago, it 
will not have proved altogether idle. 


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" Few and evil were the days of this banking, and the history of the system 
of wild-cat banks would be humiliating, but perhaps profitable, reading now, 
although the sharpers and rascals of 1876 are undoubtedly more adept in 
knavery than their ruder predecessors, and would not be proud of such 
small swindling. The crash came as soon as the general business panic 
began to spread through the Union ; and within five years after the State 
was formed, the financial ruin of the people was complete." — Chief-Justice 
Campbell, " Outlines of the Political History of Michigan," 1876. 


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WHILE the errors of the past constitute the 
wisest lessons of the future, the following epi- 
sode in Western history may be read with profit. The 
story is not new, but may derive some additional interest 
from the individual experience of the writer. 

The years 1835, 1836 and 1837 were to Michigan one 
of those ** periods of unexampled prosperity ** with which 
our country has been periodically favored. In its char- 
acter and results no better example has occurred in our 
history. This prosperous condition had begun to mani- 
fest itself in the extraordinary' demand for wild lands, and 
in the sudden appreciation of the immense advantages 
possessed by a great number of places in the ** West,*' and 
particularly in newly opened Michigan, for the building up 
of large cities. That the Peninsula possessed unequalled 
*' water privileges '* could not be doubted by any one who 
recognized its position on the map of the United States, 
almost surrounded by the waters of the Great Lakes. 
Interior lakes, too, were numerous, and large and rapid 
streams everywhere intersected the land. At least this 
was the case so far as the country was known, for the 
Government surveys had extended over not more than 
one-third of its surface. These surveys had opened to 
sale, at the low price of one dollar and twenty-five cents 

♦Published in the Magazine of Western History^ January, 1886. 



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per acre, a most beautiful and varied country of " oak- 
openings " and timbered lands, with occasional small roll- 
ing prairies, all interspersed with lakes and streams. 
What a mine of wealth lay in a few thousand, or even a 
few hundred acres of such lands at the low price of a dol- 
lar and a quarter per acre ! 

From the very beginning of the period we are consid- 
ering, and even before, a steady stream, of immigration 
had begun to pour into the territory. It consisted mostly 
of people of means and respectability from the older 
States, led by the prospect of cheaper lands. Wagons 
loaded with household goods and surmounted by a live 
freight of women and children — the men trudging on 
foot — were constantly entering by the almost only door, 
Detroit, in great numbers, bound for some paradise in 
the new Eldorado. A curious spectacle at one time pre- 
sented itself — literally a drove of men — Frenchmen from 
lower Canada — taken on by an adventurer to be settled 
upon the River St. Joseph, at the mouth of which, in the 
olden time, their countrymen had built a '' fort " among 
the savages. Each had his pack, bound up in a blanket, 
upon his shoulders, and the baggage followed in a wagon ; 
for the United States Government had opened a road in 
that direction, leading from Detroit to Chicago. 

Men who never before saw a wilderness were tempted 
to set forth, on horseback and on foot, in the spirit 
which prompted so many gentlemen adventurers, in the 
early settlement of the New World, to swell the ranks of 
the colonists — the prospect of speedy and golden fortunes. 
The numbers that crowded to the search soon converted 
the ordinary slow process into a race. 

Three land-offices had been opened by the Government 
in Michigan — one at Detroit, one at Monroe, another 


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near the western extremity of the knewn portion of the 
territory at Kalamazoo, then called Bronson. The strife 
and eagerness which prevailed at these offices passed all 
sober bounds. They were besieged long before the hour 
arrived for opening; crowds of anxious faces gathered 
about the doors and blocked up the windows, each eager 
to make " entry " of some splendid tract of farming land, 
or better still, some magnificent site for a town, before an 
equally greedy speculator should discover a;nd pounce 
upon the treasure. 

One of these land-lookers, who had been for days trav- 
ersing the woods and "taking notes," if he chanced to 
fall in with some one who was suspected of having seen 
the coveted tract, secretly hurried off, in the dead of 
night, determined to steal a march upon the others and 
secure the prize. Often, after an exhausting ride and a 
still more tedious waiting for his turn, he obtained his 
chance at the window, only to learn that a more wary ap- 
plicant had been beforehand with him. What exultation 
if he found himself in time ! What execration upon his 
ill fate if too late ! 

At the hotels were gathered animated crowds, from all 
quarters of the country, of speculators in lands. Every 
one who had secured some fortunate entry was busily 
proclaiming his good luck, and calculating his gains. 
The less fortunate, and those who were unable to convert 
themselves into woodsmen, were satisfied to take, the ac- 
counts of others on trust, and buy at second hand, of 
course at a very large advance, expecting in their turn to 
realize a handsome increase. 

Beautifully engraved maps of new city plots were exe- 
cuted in all haste, on which the contemplated improve- 
ments were laid down. Hotels, warehouses and banks 


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were here erected^ like palaces in fairy land ; piers pro- 
jected into the harbors, and steam-boats were seen enter- 
ing. Wherever a crowd could be collected auctioneers 
were knocking down lots to eager buyers, and happy was 
he who secured one with a "fine water privilege,*' at a 
price a thousand fold beyond its first cost of a few days 
before. Nor were these improvements all upon paper. 
In an incredibly short time small clearings had been 
effected, a town plat surveyed — often half a hundred miles 
from the nearest actual settler — and shingle palaces arose 
in the wilderness, or amid the burned stumps that were 
left for time to remove. Prominent among these, and 
often the only buildings erected preliminary to the sale 
of lots, were a hotel and a bank. 

At the admission of Michigan into the Union, in 1836, 
the territory contained fifteen chartered banks, with a 
population estimated at nearly one hundred and fifty 
thousand. These banks were all authorized to issue 
"currency.** Why should these few enjoy a monopoly 
of so good a thing as money, which benefited all alike, 
and of which there could not be too much ? Consequent- 
ly one of the first acts of the new State government, March, 
1837, was to pass a general banking law. Thus by a bold 
stroke monopoly was abolished, while bill-holders were 
made exceptionally secure by a pledge of real estate. Of 
this everybody held large quantities, and nothing had 
proved so convertible. Confidence in it was unbounded. 
Of course every proprietor of a *' city ** started a bank. 

These became so numerous that money was one of the 
most plentiful of commodities. The new currency was 
made redeemable in gold and silver, and every bank was 
required to keep in its vaults thirty per cent, of its circu- 
lation in the precious metals. When to these precautions 


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was added the real estate, pledged for the redemption of 
the bills, and the whole placed under the supervision of 
commissioners specially appointed, and who were to visit 
and examine the banks every few months, could reason- 
able man ask for more simple security ? 

The banks of Eastern States, also, had a large circulation 
in the West, and they expanded to the full extent of their 
powers. The effect of such rapid increase of the circulat- 
ing medium was to enhance prices of all commodities, and 
to stimulate speculation. Money became flush in every 
pocket, and all who had "the fever** — and few had not — 
were anxious to invest and own one or more of these 
farms and city lots that were held at such high value, and 
were making every holder rich. Poor women, who had 
accumulated a little spare cash, widows and sewing girls, 
were only too thankful when some kind friend volunteered 
to put them in the way of realizing some such fortunate 
investment. The southern counties of Michigan were 
speedily bought up, and the Government surveys were not 
rapid enough to satisfy the greed. 

Stimulated by the abounding sunshine, the State, too, 
had entered the arena, in its official capacity, and under- 
taken a vast system of internal improvements, for which its 
bonds were outstanding to the amount of five million 
dollars. But already storm-clouds were gathering, which 
were soon to darken the whole heavens. As a ship, which 
for many days has sailed gallantly on its course under 
favoring winds, with all of its canvas spread, is forced to 
take in sail when a shift of the wind threatens a gale, 
so the banks, which had so greatly " expanded ' ' in the 
breezes of universal prosperity, found it necessary to 
" contract *' at the first suspicion of a change. Suddenly 
the storm fell. A^ the first demand to realize for their 


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bills in specie, the banks were compelled to call in their 
circulation. As the whole amount of specie in the coun- 
try was far below the amount of paper in circulation, 
many banks broke under the large demand which fell 
upon them as soon as the public became suspicious of 
their ability to pay. All were forced to contract their 
loans, and money was rapidly being called in, instead of 
being liberally paid out as before. 

Money speedily became " tight." As few banks were 
able to sustain the pressure, it became necessary, in the 
view of the public authorities, to exercise the power, 
where it existed, to suspend specie payments. Accord- 
ingly an act was passed to that effect by the State Legisla- 
ture, which was summoned for that purpose by the gov- 
ernor, June, 1837, only three months after the passage of 
the general banking law. It was thus hoped to tide over 
the pressure, which was believed to be but temporary. 

Prior to the passage of this act, about twenty banks had 
registered and gone into operation under the general law. 
As the act did not repeal this law, many more took advan- 
tage of the privilege afforded by it of issuing irredeemable 
paper ; so that before the inevitable end came no less than 
fifty banks were scattering their worthless notes as far 
and as widely as means could be found to effect it. But 
the end was close at hand. Prices fell with as magical a 
facility as they had risen. The real estate security of the 
new banks, which was supposed to be so stable, was sud- 
denly found to be the weakest security possible. In the 
matter of the percentage of specie required to be kept in 
the vaults, it was found that the grossest frauds had been 
practised. Kegs filled with nails and broken glass, and 
having only an upper layer of coin, had been substituted 
in many instances, and were passed as genuine. In other 


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cases, one institution loaned temporarily to another that 
was about to receive a visit from the commissioners, and 
the favor was reciprocated when its turn came. One by 
one, in rapid succession, the banks toppled to the earth, 
from which, like mushrooms, they had sprung, as it were, 
in a night. They were known universally under the name 
of " wild-cats.** The most worthless were styled " red- 
dog.** The bills fell to a mere nominal value, or greatly 
depreciated, as it became known that the real estate held 
would suffice to redeem only a small fraction of the circu- 
lation. Much of this was found to be of no value what- 
ever, as it represented merely swindling operations. Many 
a poor man thus lost all his available means of livelihood. 

Many anecdotes were told of these hollow institutions, 
and many a joke was perpetrated at their expense, which 
would be laughable enough were there not, in sober sad- 
ness, less occasion for mirth than for tears and curses. I 
vouch for the authenticity of the following : 

One of the Michigan banks had gained an unusual 
share of notoriety, under the name of " The Bank of 
Sandstone.** It was " located ** at a place of that name, 
situated in the central part of the State, where quarries of 
a fine grit-stone had recently been opened. These con- 
stituted the entire commerce of the little burg, and the 
solid corner-stone of the new institution, whose promises to 
pay were in wide circulation* An old resident of Mich- 
igan held a large quantity of these bills, and learning that 
the bank was " broke,** came to my informant, in great 
distress, for advice. He was advised to go immediately 
to Sandstone and demand redemption, as it was under- 
stood the bank had some means, and the usual way was 
" first come, first served.*' The advice was followed. 
The man, on his return, called on his adviser, who in- 


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quired after his success, and was assured that it was quite 
complete. " I presented my roll," said he, '[ and was paid 
as follows: For every ten-dollar bill, a millstone; for 
every five-dollar, a grindstone, and for every one-dollar 
bill a whetstone ! ** 

The year 1838 saw as '* hard times '* in Michigan as the 
two previous years had witnessed a seeming prosperity. 
Men of supposed large wealth, and who owned thou- 
sands of acres of wild lands, valued at hundreds of thou- 
sands of dollars, were unable to buy provision for their 
families, and knew not where to look for the supply of 
their daily wants. Farmers had neglected to cultivate 
their farms in the struggle to amass land. The new 
cities, which the magic wand of speculation had created, 
were left without inhabitants. Trade was paralyzed for 
want of money, and prices fell below the old standard. 
To add to the depreciation of real estate, a strong feeling 
arose among the actual settlers against non-resident pro- 
prietors. These were called "speculators,'* and many 
contrivances were resorted to to throw on them the 
burden of taxation. Thus, in opening new roads, the res- 
ident was permitted to work out his tax, at an easy rate, 
by an understanding with the overseers, while the law 
compelled the non-resident to pay a higher rate in money. 
Under the name of school-houses, large edifices were built 
and used for town-meetings and religious worship. The 
non-resident land-owner was charged with keeping out 
settlers by raising the price of land, in forgetfulness of the 
fact that the very tide of speculation had been the means 
of opening up the country to future settlement. Land 
which had constituted the sole wealth of thousands be- 
came a drug. Large tracts were frequently abandoned to 
the tax-gatherer for a sum which a few years previous 


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would not have bought a single acre. The banks did not 
outlive the destruction of the wealth they had fictitiously 
created. In two years from the act which gave them 
birth, it is believed, not a "wild-cat *' nor "red-dog" of 
them all was in existence. But they left from one to two 
millions of dollars of their worthless bills in the hands of 
creditors. Four or five chartered banks only survived, 
and they proved fully sufficient for the wants of the pop- 
ulation for years to come. 

The year following the crash of 1838, the writer had 
occasion to visit the ruins of several of those renowned 
cities that had flourished so magnificently — on paper. 
One of these was situated on a small stream which dis- 
charged into Lake Michigan. Most of the streams on 
this side of the Peninsula have lakes near their outlets, 
originating in the setting back of the water, occasioned by 
the sand-bars at their mouths. These lakes are often 
large and deep enough for very fine harbors, but which 
can be made available only by the construction of piers. 

The village of Port Sheldon was " located *' at the out- 
let of one of these streams — the smallest of its kind, and 
without depth of water sufficient for a harbor. But one 
road led to it from the nearest and still distant settlement. 
It was in the midst of a tall forest of pines and other tim- 
ber, very few of which had been cut away. The clearing 
disclosed a large frame building, handsomely finished out- 
wardly, but a mere bam within, and by its side a smaller 
one, decorated with Grecian pillars. These were the 
hotel and the bank. And they were the only buildings 
•in the place, if we except a few shanties scarcely decent 
for the abode of the most poverty-stricken. The bank 
had collapsed ; the hotel was without guests ; the splendid 
bubble had burst, and its brilliance vanished suddenly 


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and forever. In 1865 the whole town plat, consisting of 
two hundred acres of very poor land, was sold for a petty 
sum. The long abandoned and desolate site, of which 
its projectors had published with prophetic foresight so 
many years before — " Nature seems to have done almost 
everything for this point, and the time is at hand when 
her eminent advantages will lift her to the first rank 
among our cities of the lakes" — was now the owlish 
abode of a solitary Dutchman. 

Another of these town sites, which had made a great 
noise, was situated near the mouth of Maumee Bay of 
Lake Erie. It was on low, marshy land, which had been 
regularly laid out in streets and some twenty or more 
buildings erected. The high water of 1838 had converted 
into a marsh the whole site. All the buildings were de- 
serted and the city was without an inhabitant. Two of 
the houses were pointed out — among the handsomest in 
the place — that had been built by poor milliner girls, who 
had invested in them all their earnings. They could not 
be approached, except by boat. This was the Port of 
Havre, the rival of its namesake, in the dreams of its 
founders and of their credulous victims, for one short 
year, before the waters of desolation swept away its 

One of the first found and most famous sites was 
"White-rock City.** It was upon the shore of Lake 
Huron, at the mouth of a pretty rivulet. Maps of this 
" city ** had been scattered far and wide, and lots sold 
and resold at fabulous prices. These maps represented 
a large and flourishing town upon a magnificent river. 
Piers projected into the harbor, which was filled with 
steam-boats, and it was evident that a thriving commerce 
had begun. I visited this place, during a coasting voy- 


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age, in the fall of 1837. The only approach was by the 
lake, for it was far removed from any road and forty 
miles from the nearest inhabitant, except a solitary back- 
woodsman. A large boulder rock in the lake marked the 
'* harbor.** The " river ** was insufficient for the entrance 
of our log canoe. An unbroken and unsurveyed forest 
covered the whole site. We could not find even a soli- 
tary ruin standing alone, like that at Heliopolis, in the 
Egyptian desert, to mark the place of departed grandeur. 

At a few of the really " eligible ** sites thriving villages 
have since sprung up, the Government having aided to 
build harbors, or natural advantages existing. But most 
of these town sites still retain their valuable privileges 
unimproved, and their owners have either abandoned 
hope, or continue to pay taxes on some undivided one- 
hundredth part of a fractional ** forty,*' purchased at 
city prices, that is not even marketable as farming land. 

The financial reverses of 1838 were followed by another 
calamity, which added greatly to the distress of the set- 
tled population of the State. The season of 1839 proved 
very sickly. Among the permanent improvements 
made during flush times were numerous mills, almost 
every one of which formed a nucleus for a settlement. 
No labor or thought had been bestowed upon clearing 
the stumps and fallen timber from the mill ponds, and 
this proved a formidable source of malaria. 

In the fall of that year I passed through many hamlets; 
and even considerable villages, where a quarter part of 
the population were down with. fever and ague. I had 
often to ride miles beyond my intended resting-place, be- 
cause at the tavern where I applied the family were too 
ill to wait upon me. At others I was enabled to find 
supper and a bed for myself, but had to seek accommo- 


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dation for my horse where I could find it. Having my- 
self had a touch of the ague, I carried a stock of quinine 
in my saddle-bags. These old-fashioned appurtenances 
sometimes caused me to be hailed as " doctor." On one 
of these occasions, finding what was the medicine re- 
quired, I did not hesitate to allow the mistake to go un- 
corrected, made the professional visit, administered the 
pills, but, undoctor-like, departed without my fee. 

Reaching Monroe late one evening, I anticipated no 
difficulty in finding comfortable quarters, for this place 
was, in name, at least, a city, and second only in impor- 
tance to Detroit. As I entered the street, I overheard a 
conversation, in which occurred the not very comforting 
remark — ** Tom, you must make the next coffin ; I have 
worked myself almost to death at it the last week." 
Even in this old city it was only after much trouble that 
I succeeded in quartering myself in one place and my 
beast in another. 

Most persons only laughed at those who were so un- 
fortunate as to be seized with *' fever and ager,*' as the 
popular term was for this diresome disease, as if it were 
matter of course that every one must have his turn at 
shaking like a lamb's tail. The rival cities of Monroe 
and Toledo were constantly bantering each other upon 
the insalubrity of their neighbor's location. But this 
year the subject was one almost too serious for joking. 
Who has not noticed that we are often most inclined to 
make merry when we have greatest cause for sadness? 
So jokes carried the day. Saw-mills were spoken of as 
driven by fever-and-ague power. Villages were told of 
where the church bells were rung every half hour to 
mark the time for taking the inevitable quinine. On 
one occasion, a traveller is said to have entered a vil 


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lage and searched in vain for a tavern. He found the 
streets deserted and grass-grown. At last he followed 
the one which showed the most marks of travel, and it 
led him to — the graveyard. 

Since that period a great change has taken place in 
the salubriousness of the country, and, though intermit- 
tent diseases continue to be a prevailing type, it is ac- 
knowledged that Michigan has proved to be as healthy a 
State as any in the Union. As great a change has taken 
place in the face of the country. The fever of specula- 
tion over, resident land-owners applied tl;iemselves dili- 
gently to the cultivation of the soil. New settlers con- 
tinued to pour in, though the stream was in part diverted 
to territory nearer the setting sun, the discovery being 
made that Michigan was too far east for emigrants 
bound westward, ho ! The mania of speculation which 
had been considered by the new settlers so serious a 
drawback, proved a substantial benefit, from the numer- 
ous and solid improvements it brought about in a very 
brief time, that would otherwise have been delayed many 
years. The hard times continued for almost a decade. 
It was not until a general bankrupt law had wiped out 
the load of debt which had overwhelmed a great part of 
the country, and the sufferers, taught by sad experience, 
had learned to pursue business in safer channels, that we 
date the return of substantial as well as universal pros- 


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" Les Canadiens, c'est-^-dire, les Creoles du Canada, respirent en nais- 
sant un air de liberte, qui les rend fort agreables dans le commerce de la 
vie, et nulle part ailleurs on ne parle plus purement Notre Langue. On ne 
remarque m^me ici aucun accent. 

" On ne voit point en ce Pays de Personnes riches, et c'est bien dom- 
mage, car on y aime k se faire honneur de son bien, and Personne presque 
ne s' amuse k th^sauriser. On fait bon chere, si avec cela on pent avoir de 
quoi se bien mettre ; sinon, on se retranche sur la table, pour etre bien 
vltu. Aussi faut-il avouer que les ajustements sont bien k nos Creoles. 
Tout est ici de belle taille, and le plus [beau] sang du Monde dans les 
deux sexes; I'esprit enjoue, les manieres douces and polies sorit com- 
munes k tous; et la rusticite, soit dans la langage, soit dans les fa9ons, 
n'est pas m$me connue dans les Campagnes les plus ^cart^es." — Charle- 
voix, Histoire de la NoHvelle France, 1720. 


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Part !• 

I HAVE undertaken to occupy your attention with a 
subject in the details of which general history is very 
meagre, namely, the character and habits of the first 
colonists of Michigan. 

From time to time many interesting items have been 
given to the public by noted citizens, including some ** to 
the manor born," but they are mostly of fugitive char- 
acter, or are buried in the columns of old newspapers. 

To these materials, scanty as they are, I am aware that 
I can add but little that is valuable, out of the stores of 
my own observation and research. Yet there are fields 
not wholly gleaned, and if I have discovered any new 
grains of truth, or can bind the scattered materials into 
an acceptable sheaf, I may at least be excused from fol- 
lowing where others have so worthily led. 

Of the present generation how few appreciate the 
character of the people who laid the foundation of our 
beautiful city ; who for more than half a century con- 
stituted the sole population of the Territory of the Lakes; 
and whose descendants, whelmed in the overflowing tide 
of Anglo-Saxons, still retain, to a good degree, their old 
tongue, and somewhat of their ancient customs. But 
these are undergoing a rapid change. They are des- 
tined, at no distant day, to be absorbed into the general 

* Read before the Detroit Pioneer Society, 1872, and published in the 
State Pioneer Collections. 



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element, and the peculiar features which characterized the 
French of the olden times will soon be utterly obliterated 
and forgotten. 

Without going into historical detail, which would lead 
into too wide a field, I propose to notice some facts of gen- 
eral application, which will prepare us better to under- 
stand the character and customs of those who claim the 
honors of pioneers in the settlement of Michigan. 

The story of the settlement of Canada by the French is 
full of stirring incident, of marvellous adventure, — of life 
amid deep forests, and upon the vast rivers and inland 
oceans of our continent, — almost as wild as that of their 
savage associates. It has been often told, and nowhere 
with more fidelity and graphic power than in the capti- 
vating pages of Parkman. 

English, and sometimes American, historians are not 
always just toward the race who first peopled the terri- 
tories of New France. They notice the complete subjec- 
tion and willing obedience of the French emigre to the 
home government ; his recognition of the Indian claims, 
and ready affiliation and sympathy with the savage 
tribes ; and they compare with these, — unfavorably to the 
Frenchman, — the energy, enterprise, and individual inde- 
pendence which brought to our Atlantic shores the New 
England immigrants ; which led them to subdue the wil- 
derness, and have impressed their character upon the insti- 
tutions and fortune of these United States. 

The flourishing period of French colonization was that 
of the long and brilliant reign of Louis XIV. In the 
home country it was an age of corruption, of despotic arro- 
gance in the high places of the kingdom, and of unreason- . 
ing obedience on the part of those below. No successful 
clashing had occurred between the ruling and the ruled — 


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between despotism and liberty — such as conspired to drive 
the first English emigrants — pilgrims from arbitrary power 
— to the wild shores of the New England in America. 
Here, thrown upon their unaided resources, all the energy 
of which the Anglo-Saxon nature is capable was called 
forth to enable them to establish a home in the wilderness. 
They struck at once upon the source of an enduring pros- 
perity, the culture of the soil. 

While New France was the cherished care of the Grand 
Monarque, it did not escape the corruptions of that court 
and age. The principles which lie at the base of success- 
ful colonization were little understood, and ill applied. 
Glory and gain to France, not the permanence and good 
of the colony, were the objects sought. The French pio- 
neer came with a purpose, beyond which neither he nor 
his Government looked. This was not — ^with some excep- 
tions — to found permanent communities, by the practice 
of agriculture and the arts, but to establish and extend the 
gainful traffic in peltries. The first French settlers were 
communities of fur traders. 

To the profitable traffic in furs the religious zeal of the 
age added another motive, almost equally powerful, the 
Christianizing of the native population. This was an aim 
which — with all their religious fervor — did not inspire the 
emigrants to New England. Equally intolerant with the 
Catholic emigres, but without their enthusiasm, they gave 
feeble encouragement to missions among the heathen 
around them. In the eyes of most, the savages were a 
race of heretics, to whom was denied alike the consola- 
tions of the Christian faith and the benefits of civilization. 
The spirit of freedom is not always winged with charity. 

Strikingly in contrast was the conduct of their neigh- 
bors of Canada, in the genius to plan and the courage and 


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endurance to carry out the most toilsome expeditions, for 
founding missions in the wilderness. Though little re- 
mains of the missions established by the Jesuits, their 
long, unremitting and solitary labors, and severe sufferings 
and martyrdom, have written their names in glory! His- 
tory has nothing brighter on her records, than the deeds 
of these Christian heroes. 

" The order of the Jesuit, 
In rigid compact firmly knit," 

is inseparably interwoven with the fortunes and fate of 
the French Empire in America. Its character is well de- 
scribed in the following graphic lines, from the poem 
* Teuch sa Grondie,* by our fellow-townsman, the presi- 
dent of this society, — Levi Bishop : 

" A school of strictest self-denial ; 
Obedient unto every trial ; 
Invincible and calmly bold, 
A social problem to unfold ; 
In vigils long ; in rigid fast ; 
Beneath the scourge in penance cast : 
With constant, never-failing zeal 
That all the woes of man can feel ; 
With self-sustaining fervor blest. 
That long devotions well attest ; 
With deep enthusiastic glow, 
That blazes on the polar snow ; 
With master policy refined. 
To rule the world of human kind ; 
In closest league with royal state, 
Wide conquest to accelerate ; 
With grasp of universal plan. 
Embracing every race of man : 
Such was the order shrewdly sent. 
To seize the western continent." 

With such traits, unhappily, Jesuitism did not confine 


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itself to the Christianizing of the Indians, but became inti- 
mately associated with the political fortunes of the coun- 
try, for evil as well as good. 

In the genius -of discovery, in establishing depots for 
trade and forts for protection, and in opening to the 
knowledge of civilized man a world vast and unknown, 
the French, too, were without a rival. The leading spirits 
in these enterprises would have been men of mark any- 
where. With what a handful of men they invaded the 
savage wilderness! How indomitable their resolution. 
How judicious their selections of sites for forts and towns. 
How far-sighted the sagacity with which they secured to 
France, as they had reason to believe, a mighty Empire in 
the New World ! 

The great body of the colonists, it is true, were of the 
lower orders, uneducated in independence, moral or polit- 
ical. Many came as soldiers, and were induced to remain 
as settlers. A few were from the gentry ; men who 
claimed an ancestry, and had names of which even yet 
their descendants are proud. No convicts were sent out, 
and there were no drones. All were accustomed to seek, 
and seldom failed to find, a living for themselves. 

The colonization of " the Detroit,'* or Straits of Lakes 
Erie and Huron, dates from the first year of the i8th cent- 
ury, nearly two centuries after the discoveries of Car- 
tier, on the St. Lawrence, and a century after the found- 
ing of Quebec. 

The object of Sieur de la Motte Cadillac, in the settle- 
ment of Detroit, was not only to establish a military post, 
which should overawe the natives, check the advance of 
the English and Dutch, and secure the Indian trade, but 
to found an agricultural community, and obtain a perma- 
nent foothold upon the soil. It was a step further into 


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the wilderness than any colony had yet ventured. It was 
an intrusion into the stronghold of savage tribes, many 
of whom were hostile to the French, and in the interest of 
their enemies. It was within reach of the English settle- 
ments, with which an eager contest had commenced for 
the Indian trade of the lakes, and the vast country to 
which these opened the gate. 

A varied fortune awaited the new colony. From the 
first there was strong opposition, from political opponents 
of the measure, and personal enemies of Cadillac, among 
whom the Jesuits were conspicuous, and those who were 
interested in the older settlements. Nor was it easy to 
distinguish between their allies and their foes in the nu- 
merous tribes whose villages crowded closely about the 
fort, and who beset the colony on all sides. No less 
than four times, the destruction of the fort was the sub- 
ject of conspiracies and machinations, urged on by rival 
interests ; and for the first half century the security of the 
peasantry was too precarious to permit extensive or suc- 
cessful agriculture. 

Hardly had the settlers begun to feel secure in their 
possession, when, with the capitulation of Montreal (1760), 
followed the downfall of the Empire of France in the 
New World, and the transfer, almost without warning to 
its inhabitants, of the sovereignty of Canada to its life- 
long enemy — the English. The lilies of France were 
never to float again triumphant upon these waters. 

Thirty years later saw the flag of England lowered to 
the Stars and Stripes of its rebel colonies. In less than 
two decades more the Cross of St. George resumed its 
sway over this region, for a brief period, to be again, for 
the last time, succeeded by the triumphant banner of the 
new republic. 


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Few people, and no portion of America, had, in so brief 
a period, experienced so many and singular reverses. 
None ever accommodated themselves more gracefully to 
the mutations of their fate. In their own way they con- 
tinued to prosper, and had lined the banks of the Detroit 
with pleasant homesteads. 

Little more than the third of a century has passed 
since the writer's first acquaintance with the region which, 
not many years before, the author of McFingal had de- 
scribed as, 

" Where Detroit looks out amid the wood, 
Remote, beside the dreary solitude.*' 

Making my abode in the country, at some remove from 
the City of the Straits, — then boasting its 5000 inhabitants, 
of many nationalities, — I found myself amid a people 
mostly French, — the descendants of those who had braved 
the dangers of the remote wilderness, in following the for- 
tunes of Cadillac. 

As yet the inroads of the Anglo-Saxon had but little 
disturbed the quiet river settlements ; but a day of change 
had arrived, which, in a very short time, was destined to 
destroy this old-time character. Since that day the Arca- 
dian simpHcity and content that had so long continued to 
prevail, in spite of contending sovereignties, has yielded 
rapidly to the restless energy of the invading Yankee ; as 
did aforetime, to the conquering Briton, the dream of 
French Empire in the New World. 

While the colonists on the Detroit retained many of 
the characteristics of their countrymen in the Old World^ 
modifications necessarily took place, in the adaptation to 
so different an abode. Taking possession of a vast wil- 
derness, families neither gathered into hamlets, as is the 
custom of the peasantry of France, nor did they seek an 


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independent existence, like the backwoodsmen of New- 
England stock; but their dwellings — each on its own 
farm — were in such close proximity as almost to consti- 
tute a continuous village for many miles of river shore. 
Originally motives of protection against the savages, and 
afterwards those of social intercourse, led to this near 

The original titles to these lands were variously derived. 
Of those below the city, as far as the River Rouge (3 
miles), three are from grants of the Marquis du Quesne, 
Governor-General of Louisiana and Canada — 1740; ten 
from Marquis de la Jousire, vested with like powers — 
1750. Ten others are from Indian deeds of gift, subse- 
quent to the occupancy by the English — 1770 to 1780, — 
confirmed by the British commandant. Few of the 
French grants actually received confirmation of the King, 
although this was required by the Copciume de Paris, which 
was the law of the country. Permits to occupy were 
sometimes granted by the French commandants. These 
grants and rights of occupancy were confirmed by the 
United States Government, early in the present century, 
through a commission sitting at Detroit ; and upon these, 
patents were issued. The tracts thus confirmed vary in 
width from two to five arpents, and Were about eighty 
arpents in length.^ 

I have heard old habitants say they could shout to 
each other from their door-steps. And this mode of 
telegraphic message, passing rapidly from house to house, 
served the purpose of modern methods, in case of ap- 
prehended danger, and even for social converse. 

* The arpent is a measure of length, as well as area. It is a square 
the side of which is 192 feet, three inches. 


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An American backwoodsman thinks settlements crowd 
too closely upon him — that he has not elbow-room enough 
— if a neighbor establishes himself within a mile of the 
spot which he has selected for his hearth-stone. A 
Frenchman so situated would die of ennui. He must 
have facilities for regular and frequent intercourse with 
his neighbors ; and, as roads are execrable in a new 
country, he best accomplishes his object by fixing his 
habitations upon the streams — highways that nature has 
created. The canoe is his carry-all, in which he and his 
family move easily to and from even distant settlements. 
What glorious opportunities for the gratification of these 
desires was presented by those grand highways of the 
New World ! 

From the water also came a large part of his food ; 
for fishing and trapping were more favorite employments 
than agriculture. The object of the first settlers being 
the fur trade and Indian traflfic, these lakes and rivers 
supplied a natural channel through which those opera- 
tions were conducted. 

It was along the chain of the mighty lakes and rivers 
of our continent that France sought to maintain her 
foothold in America, by the erection of forts at points 
widely separated, but selected with wonderful foresight. 
In the vicinity of, and under the protection of these, 
were the early settlements made. As this protection 
became less needed, as the Indian trade declined, or was 
further removed, the peasant farmers made more distant 
settlements. They retained, however, the practice of 
inhabiting only the banks of streams accessible from the 
great lakes. I know of no original French settlement 
which is not so situated. 

As a hunter the French settler had none of the re- 


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nown of the American backwoodsman, but to his skill 
in trapping the great fur companies of Canada owed a 
large part of the smaller peltries that were so considera- 
ble a source of their revenues. 

Like the beaver and muskrat, the Canadian not un- 
frequently lived almost in the water of his favorite 
streams and marshes, and built his cabin in a spot which 
could be approached only by canoe. The dwellers in 
habitations so little superior in architecture and site to 
the houses which these ingenious little architects contrive 
for their accommodation in their n^itive marshes, and 
denoting so little degree of mental advancement, de- 
served the soubriquet, bestowed upon them by the con- 
temptuous Yankee, of " muskrat Frenchmen.** 

We have seen that the kind of enterprise which charac- 
terized the French emigre was very different from that 
which marked the Anglo-Saxon settler ; which has con- 
verted the wilderness into fertile fields, and, almost in a 
single lifetime, constituted this nation one of the for- 
midable powers of the earth. 

After more than a century of settlement, the farms 
along the Straits exhibited only a narrow strip of cultiva- 
tion. This rarely extended half a mile from the water's 
edge. From their doors the family had a view of the 
untrimmed forest, where the deer roamed, and wild beasts 
prowled frequently to the very barn-yards. 

Even this limited extent of field received very imper- 
fect culture. It was almost never manured, and so little 
was high culture understood or regarded, that instances 
are well known where farmers, whose manure heaps had 
accumulated to an inconvenient degree about their 
barns, adopted the most ready means of relief, by carting 
the incumbrance on to the ice in winter. The offensive 


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material was thus washed away without further trouble, 
when the ice broke up in the spring. I have it on un- 
doubted authority, that in sotne cases even the bams 
were removed, to avoid the piles that had accumulated ! 

This limited agricultural improvement did not originate 
from the extreme subdivision of the land, for each propri- 
etor possessed acres enough ; though his farm, in its pro- 
portion of length to breadth, bore a resemblance to his 

As this great national interest flourished so little under 
the kind of encouragement bestowed by the French Gov- 
ernment, it may be curious to compare the terms by 
which grants of land were bestowed by the commandants, 
with the tenure by which, under the fostering care of the 
present Government, each householder may secure a 
homestead. One runs in this wise : * The grantee was 
bound to pay a rent of 1$ livres a year, in peltries, to the 
crown forever ; to assist in planting a May-pole, on each 
May-day, before the door of the mansion-house. He 
was forbidden to buy or sell articles of merchandise, car- 
ried to or from Montreal, through servants, clerks, or for- 
eigners ; to work at the business of a blacksmith ; to sell 
brandy to the Indians, or to mortgage the land without 
consent of the Government. The Crown reserved all min- 
erals and timber for military purposes. The grantor re- 
served the right of hunting rabbits, partridges and pheas- 
ants. All the grain raised was to be ground at the 
manor windmill, where toll was to be given, according to 
the x:ustom of Paris. On every sale of land a tax was 
levied, and the Government reserved the right to take 
precedence of any buyer, at the price offered.* Under 
so many restrictions we see one reason why agriculture, 
as an independent pursuit, should not flourish. 


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Having spoken so disparagingly of French agriculture, 
it is but just to observe that the Canadians were speedy 
to adopt the superior implements and modes of cultiva- 
tion used by the Anglo-Saxon settlers ; and the present 
generation see little difference between the tools and the 
methods belonging to the one or the other. But half a 
century ago the old methods were still practised. 

The cart was the universal vehicle for farm and family 
use, wagons being unknown. The plough was of wood, 
except the share. Its long beam and handles extended 
ten or twelve feet, and it had a wooden mould-board. In 


front were two wheels, also of wood, of different sizes : a 
small one to run on the unploughed side, and a larger one 
in the furrow. There were neither chains nor whiffletree : 
oxen were fastened by a pole, which had a hinged attach- 
ment to the beam. And very good, though shallow, 
ploughing was performed by this rude but ingenious 

Both oxen and horses were employed in the various 
operations. The harness was very simple, and con- 
structed of ropes or withes of twisted rawhide. No yoke 
was used, but a rope of the kind mentioned was passed 


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around the oxens' horns, and they pushed with their 
heads. It was maintained by those who employed this 
seemingly singular method, that it was the most natural 
and effective, and gave greater freedom of action to the 
cattle. Possibly scientific agriculturists of the present 
day may get a useful hint from the simple ideas of the 
olden times. 

The hoe vidiS a very heavy iron implement, having a long 
shank. It was the same that was used by the Indians, 
after the introduction of iron among them. The latter 
never ploughed, and were ignorant of the method of 
laying out the field, in parallel rows; hills of corn being 
planted without regard to regularity, though at tolerably 


uniform distances ; and though the Frenchmen used the 
plough effectively, their ordinary mode of planting com 
was precisely that of the Indians. 

The winter carry-all was a strong but narrow box, 
placed upon runners, which spread widely and were iron- 
shod. Sometimes these were adorned with fancy heads. 
The thills, which were of hickory or ash, were so fixed as 
to spring outwardly, and when the horse was harnessed 
in, the ends were brought together and tied. The strain, 
consequently, prevented any rubbing against the horse's 
sides, and allowed a large liberty of action, which was of 
great service to their keen trotters and pacers. It was 
constructed for two persons only, although a seat for a 


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third was sometimes placed in front. Horses were some- 
times driven tandem. 

The traineau was of rougher construction, made for 
work, and the runners did not spread. 

For summer pleasure-driving a few had the calhhe. 
It resembled the modern chaise, and had a movable fold- 
ing top. 

The cart, of which I have made mention, is worthy 
of commemoration. It was the common vehicle for all 


classes, and even in the city, long after my arrival here, 
was almost the only kind of carriage. It was a light two- 
wheeled vehicle of the ordinary cart construction, and 
the sides were protected by a low railing. The gentry 
sometimes had chairs placed within, but commonly all 
rode after a more primitive style, with a buffalo robe 
only for seat. In this simple mode ladies were taken to 
church, to parties and calls, or carted over the mud 
wherever the roads were in a condition unfit for dainty 
feet. The stiff clay soil which prevailed along the only 


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road was often almost impassable for pedestrians. There 
were no pavements, nor even that convenient Western 
resource — plank walks. Nor was there a stone crossing, 
nor a public hack in the city, thirty years ago. 

Many were the curious scenes, and many the laughable 

" legends store 

Of strange adventures, happed by — ^*' 

mud : the suffocation of dogs ; the loss of shoes ; the 
discomfiture of neat gallants, who ventured aid to the 
weaker sex, in their rash attempts to cross a street. Even 
those who were so fortunate as to obtain the use of a cart 


did not always escape the danger or the fun ; for some- 
times the loosely-made lynch-pin gave out, when the liv- 
ing cargo was unceremoniously dumped, of course in the 
very deepest puddles. But such accidents in those days 
were a subject of mirth rather than of chagrin. The 
French cart was an article of real convenience, and well 
adapted to the wants and tastes of the people and times. 
It was a legitimate descendant of the cart of Normandy, 
where, in recent times, I have been interested to see it in 
common use, of precisely similar construction. Among 
us its use is now almost confined to Canada. But now 
and then one may be seen on the American side, on its 


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way to market, with fifty pounds of hay, or a quarter 
cord of wood, drawn by a shag of a pony, whose back 
reaches scarcely above the thills, and a little weazen- 
faced Frenchman mounted on the top. 

The stock of the French farmer consisted almost ex- 
clusively of horses, — that dwarfed, hardy race, so well 
known as Canadian ponies. These roamed at large, be- 
yond the enclosures, picking up an independent living by 
browsing. Even in the winter they seldom received any 
but a stolen aid from the barns or stacks of their owners. 
Each pony bore its master's initials, branded upon the 
shoulder, and was caught and broken to the bit as he 
happened to be wanted. Whether these horses were ob- 
tained originally from the Indians of the plains, or had 
any relationship with the Mexican mustang, seems not to 
be determined. They were peculiar to Canada. 

To some extent this mode of raising horses has pre- 
vailed, even down to present times, in the towns adjacent 
to Detroit, where the French are still a large element 
in the population. They receive literally no care what- 
ever, and roam in bands, scouring along the roads with 
the speed of liberty, and often making night hideous with 
the uproar. The following lines from a manuscript 
poem by Hon. James V. Campbell (I hope his Honor 
will pardon the theft), thus well describes these nightly 
races through the town : 

" Unchecked, with flying leap and bound, 
The savage courser spurns the ground. 
No venturous horseman leads the ranks, 
No spur has galled their heaving flanks, 
No master's hand has grasped the mane, 
No champing jaw has known the rein ; 
But in a countless host they press, 
Free as the storm, but riderless ; 


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Compact as when an army's tramp 
Bears down upon a foeman's camp ; 
While the ground trembles, like the shore 
Where foaming lines of breakers roar 1 '* 

That the Detroit habitants of an early day were not 
altogether open to the reproach of being neglectful hus- 
bandmen, good evidence has come down to our own 
times, in the fine orchards of apple, pear, and cherry 
trees, that gave beauty and value to nearly every farm. 

Our view of Canadian agriculture would be incomplete 
indeed without a particular notice of these old orchards, 
which are so distinguishing a feature in the river land- 
scape, and in which the Canadians showed such com- 
mendable enterprise. 

Though many of the farms, so closely crowded along 
the river banks, had orchards comprising several hundred 
of these fruit trees, and few were entirely destitute, it is 
singular that little is known of their history. In answer 
to inquiries, old people will tell, that their ancestors 
obtained the trees from Montreal, to which place they 
were brought, at a still earlier day, from Normandy or 
Provence; but they have no knowledge when, or from 
which. The prevailing opinion is, that th'e seeds were 
brought from France, and planted as soon as the first 
permanent settlements were made on the Straits, about a 
century and a half ago. The present generation remem- 
ber well the days of their boyhood, passed beneath the 
shade and in the enjoyment of the fruit of these trees, 
which, in their recollection, were even then of great size. 

Before further considering the mystery of their origin, 
the character of these orchards claims our attention. 
When we recognize that from the orchards on this river 
have originated many noted kinds of apples, still exten- 


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sively appreciated throughout the Northern States, it 
will be apparent that they contained no wild or common 
fruit. From hence were disseminated the famous " Cal- 
ville '* — both red and white ; the " Detroit Red " — Roseau 
of the French ; the " Pomme de neige/' or Fameuse — the 
celebrated **Snow Apple" of America; all fruits that 
have established a wide reputation. Besides these are 
several not so well known, — the gray apple, russets,, noted 
for long keeping ; pearmains, and others. Almost every 
orchard had one or more of these noted kinds. 

As cider fruit, these apples maintained a reputation 
long after the influx of settlers from the Eastern States. 
In this respect they were considered to surpass the apples 
of New England, and to be second only to the celebrated 
New Jersey product. 

Forty years ago a few cider mills of the French con- 
struction were in existence. They were quite unique. 
The crusher was a large stone or wood cylinder, six to 
eight feet diameter, and from six to ten inches thickness. 
It turned on a wooden axis, fashioned to a centre-post, 
and was carried around by horse-power. It ran in a 
trough, dug out of a large tree, and put together by 
sections. The press consisted of a long wooden lever, 
acting upon a platform, and held down by tackling. 

But the crowning glory of the French orchard was the 
pear tree. Nearly every homestead possessed one, some 
two or three, few exceeded a half dozen. Such was its 
wonderful size and productiveness, that one specimen 
usually amply satisfied the wants of a family. 

These pear trees were, and still are, conspicuous objects 
in the river scenery, and, for size, vigor and productive- 
ness are truly remarkable. A bole six feet in girth, and 
a height of sixty feet, are only common attainments. 


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Many show a circumference of trunk of eight to nine feet, 
and rear their lofty heads seventy, and sometimes eighty 
feet from the earth ! They bear uniform crops, thirty to 
fifty bushels being often the annual product of a single 
tree. The fruit is of medium size, ripening about the end 
of August, and though as a table -fruit superseded by 
many sorts which an improved horticulture has intro- 
duced, it still holds a fair rank, and in some respects is 
not surpassed, if equalled, by any. The flesh is crisp, 
juicy, sweet and spicy. For stewing and preserving it is 
quite unrivalled. Individual trees differ a little in their 
period of ripening, and in size and flavor of fruit, but the 
variety is well characterized. 

It is not a little remarkable that so little should be 
known of the history of a tree of such extraordinary char- 
acter. The earliest travellers from whom we have pub- 
lished records, such as Charlevoix, Henry and Carver, 
make none, or only casual mention, and give no clue to 
their date and origin. The memory of the oldest inhab- 
itant is only traditional in regard to them. Along the 
St. Lawrence and about Montreal, whence these trees are, 
by some, supposed to have been brought to Detroit, no 
specimens exist, and the orchards are few and inferior. 
In a hasty journey across Normandy, I saw many fine 
and large pear trees, but I looked in vain for any of the 
size or character which might be supposed to have origin- 
ated the Detroit pear tree. 

The prevailing opinion, that the pear and apple trees of 
the Canadas originated from seeds brought from France, 
is founded on the supposition that nursery trees could not 
have withstood the long sea voyage of that period. Yet 
this opinion cannot be accepted without hesitation. It is 
a law well understood by fruit culturists, that trees raised 


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from the seed of these fruits tend to revert to their origi- 
nal wild state. They are, with rare exceptions, inferior 
to the cultivated varieties, and besides, are of almost as 
many different sorts as the seeds which produce them. 
Neither the pear nor apple trees of the French orchards 
have the character of seedlings ; and the fact that almost 
every orchard contained several trees of the same, and of 
well-known kinds, militates against that supposition. On 
the other hand, it is improbable that they are seedlings 
raised here and grafted. For the art was then little prac- 
tised in America, and not at all among the Canadians. 

The Detroit pear tree is found also on the River Raisin, 
at Monroe, and, so far as I am informed, exists nowhere 
else in America. The trees on the latter stream were 
planted by the early settlers there, many years after the 
colonization of the Straits. In 1786, Col. Francis Navarre, 
of Monroe, travelling on horseback from Detroit, carried 
in his hand six or more trees, which he planted on his 
farm. They attained large size, and are still bearing 
immense crops. One of these is said to measure, at two 
feet from the ground, nine feet two inches circumference, 
and at four feet, separates into two branches, one of which 
is seven feet four inches and the other five feet in cir- 

We have ample testimony to the great size of these 
giant pear trees half a century ago. I am informed by 
an old resident that in 181 2 or 181 3 he saw one cut down 
which was in the way of a battery that was being built 
just above the city, and which measured nearly two feet 
diameter of trunk. Such a growth could hardly have 
been acquired in less than a century. 

I know not by what fatality, but our old French pear 
trees seem destined to have no successors to their fame, as 


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though unwilling to survive the Americanization of the 
race who nurtured and so long enjoyed their stately mu- 
nificence. Appreciated by all, no one has thought of 
continuing the species, or else all attempts have failed. 
No young trees are to be found in the extensive planta- 
tions of the present century, which includes so many 
vastly inferior. None of the nurseries contain it. It is 
even yet without a name in the dictionary of American 
fruit trees. Still, however, the pear trees flourish, in a 
green old age, while the apple orchards are fast disappear- 
ing, partly from natural decay, but more perhaps from 
neglect ; while many are annually swept from existence 
by the relentless besom of modern improvement,'*' 

The old pear tree belongs to Detroit and her old habi- 
tants, and will perish with them, and with their home- 
steads, which are so fast disappearing. Another half 
century will see the last of those magnificent trees, 
— the pride of the French orchard ; the mammoth of 
fruits, — of which the world does not afford its equal ! 

Having given this imperfect view of French out-door 
occupation, their social character claims our attention ; 
but this demands a separate chapter. 

* Since the above was written many of the pear trees begin to show decay 
from old age, and are now in dying condition. 


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Fart II. 

FROM our consideration of the agriculture of the 
early French settlers on the Detroit, we turn natu- 
rally to their homesteads. We form some judgment of a 
people from the houses they live in. 

The better class of dwellings of the French habitants 
were of quite a substantial character, considered as mere 
timber structures. They were built of logs, squared and 
covered \yith clapboards, and the roofs shingled with 
cedar. They were of one or two stories, according to the 
need or ability of the owner, but were never ambitious. 
Generally they were one full story, the upper, or half 
story, being chiefly within the roof, which was high, and 
lighted by small dormer windows, projecting on the front 
and rear sides. The entrance was in the centre, and a 
hall ran from front to rear. A low and perfectly plain 
veranda was another usual feature. 

One of the oldest and most noted structures of this 
class was the ** Cass house," which had been used by 
several of the territorial governors of Michigan, and ex- 
hibited many marks of the tomahawk and bullet, received 
during the Indian wars. It stood on the Cass farm, and 
was built of cedar logs, weather boarded ; about fifty feet 
front and one story in height, with steep roof. A heavy 
stone chimney rose out of the centre. The position, 
when I first saw it, was- very beautiful. It was upon the 



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immediate bank of the river, here quite abrupt and high, 
and shadowed with trees. No wharf or building ob- 
structed the view, which commanded many miles of the 
river channel and shores, and in the rear were smiling 
gardens, and green slopes, between which flowed the 
little river "Savoyard,** since diverted into a covered 
sewer. This old mansion is still a comfortable dwelling, 
or dwellings, on Larned Street. It stands but little re- 
moved from its old site, but in front and in rear are 
stony streets, thickly lined with houses. It is remote 
from the present border of the river, and its time-honored 
character is lost in new boards and white paint. Its age 
is probably not less than 1 50 years.^ 

Another old domicile of the times of French regime — 
the Lafferty house — stood half a mile below, and was 
torn down in 1861, to give place to structures better 
suited to the wants of modern times. It was erected in 
1747, and was, at the time of its destruction, in excellent 
preservation ; the timbers heavy and solid, and the stone 
chimney exhibiting the large, open fire-place which 
marked an age of hospitality and good cheer. 

The Knaggs house, another well-known mansion, was 
for several years my own residence. It consists of two 
parts : one a low structure of a single story, with an attic, 
and containing two rooms and a pantry. It is of un- 
known age, and, like the Cass house, bears marks of 
Indian outrages. The other portion is of comparatively 
modern date, and consists of three considerable rooms, 
separated by a central hall. It has a second half-story, 
with dormer windows, and also windows in the gables, 
and is throughout well finished. The front door is um- 

* It was torn down in 1883, and the site occupied by brick buildings. 


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braged by a square portico, which had seats, and com- 
manded a delightful look-out upon the river, in its im- 
mediate front. Both parts of the mansion are built of 
squared pine timbers, clapboarded. The newer portion 
had, when I took possession, a coat of paint, white in 
front, red in the rear. If there had ever been paint on 
the older portion it had long disappeared. The panes of 
glass throughout all the windows were a curiosity, being 
of a size entirely disused and no longer sold by dealers, 
— six and a half by seven and a half inches. 

I will allude to another, and one of the few French 
mansions in the city, — the old " Campau house." It is 
built upon the foundations of the original dwelling 
burned down by the fire, which consumed the entire city 
in 1805. Though an interesting relic, and a good speci- 
men of its class, it belongs to the present century. It 
will give a good idea of the contrast between the old 
town and the new to state that the avenue of 120 feet 
wide, upon which this house fronts, corresponds here 
with the old St. Ann Street, on which it formerly stood, 
but which (though the largest street of Old Detroit) had 
a width of only 30 feet.^ 

Few such memorials of the " good old days ** now re- 
main in this vicinity. But on the Canada side of the 
channel comparatively little change has taken place in 
the appearance and condition of many old French home- 
steads. The village of Sandwich wears much of its old- 
time character, and a dreamy quiet pervades the place, 
worthy of Sleepy Hollow, and singularly in contrast with 
the bustling, wide-awake activity which distinguishes 
most American villages. 

* This mansion, too, has disappeared, having (1885) given way to the 
demands of another race and times, 


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Digitized by VjOOQIC 

MILLS. 135 

Most French dwellings had yards, fenced by pickets of 
red cedar. These were often 10 or 12 feet in height, and 
were intended and often served as a stockade for protec- 
tion during the troubles of the war times, as well as 
against wolves. 

Some of these defences were standing along the river, 
between my house and the town, as late as 1837, ^"^ 
consisted of very closely set, large and mostly round 
posts, which were generally still sound. They were so 
deeply sunk that the axe was used rather than the 
spade, when their removal became expedient. Few if 
any of these posts can now be seen in this vicinity, but 
the stumps of many still remain, as landmarks of a past 
age, below the soil, where the axe has left them. 

Another feature of the old settlements has disap- 
peared, — the windmills^ which once marked every few 
miles of river shore, and were an animating part of its 
picturesque scenery. 

These institutions of primitive times were in full 
operation, down to the stirring period of Yankee im- 
provements, — (1836-37). Until then there were no flour- 
ing-mills of any other description within many miles ; 
though we have the authority of Judge Campbell for 
stating, that a watermill was built as early as 1734, on 
May's Creek, below the city, and one on Mill or Conner's 
Creek, above, and that as late as 1830 one was standing 
in ruins upon Bloody Run, where it is crossed by Jefferson 

The windmills served sufficiently well all the needs of 
the French era ; but with the advent of larger Wcmts, 
more capable structures were demanded. The neglected 
windmills fell to decay, and at the present time a few 
only survive, in ruins. 


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From these brief notices of the dwellings of the French 
land-owners it will doubtless, and with truth, be con- 
cluded that the occupants lived in reasonable style and 
comfort ; and that the personal appearance of our French 
progenitors corresponded to the simple and comfortable 
character of their homesteads. 

The gentleman's dress of the olden time, in winter, con- 


sisted of colored shirt, with vest, and pantaloons or leg- 
gings. A belt or sash held up the trousers, and over all 
was worn a capote, or heavy blanket coat, with a sack or 
loose cap attached, that was thrown back or over the 
head, as required. The latter extremity was bound with 
a colored handkerchief, while the lower were protected 
by shoe-packs, and sometimes by moccasons. 


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On dress occasions the sash was richly ornamented 
with beads, in the Indian fashion, and sometimes was of 
wampum. It was spread widely over the body, outside 
the coat, and tied behind, the ends hanging down two 
feet or more. In warm weather, pantaloons were worn 
without vest, and were sustained by a belt, generally of 


leather. The feet were bare, and hats of straw completed 
the covering. 

The voyageurs, or boatmen, often wore shirts over the 
trowsers, made of leather, with ruffles in the bosom, of 
the same material. They had bright-colored cloth caps, 
which hung over on one side and terminated with a 


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The dress of the women consisted of short gowns or 
habits, falling no lower than the knee, and showing the 
petticoats, which reached to the feet; and they had 
ample straw hats. For cold weather they had fur hats 
or bonnets. They received the fashions from Montreal, 
but the changes were so slight, that probably less varia- 


tion had occurred in a century than takes place in the 
costume of our modern belles in a single year. In fact, 
the costume I have described continued almost un- 
changed, from the earliest period, down nearly to the 
time of my own personal observation. The straw hat 
maintains its repute even yet, as a permanent and whole- 
some style abroad, its merits having given it a wide adop- 


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tion ; and it would be well if, in other particulars, the con- 
venient fashions of our Canadian dames could be pre- 

The French people continued to preserve, down to a 
very recent date, a good degree of their ancient character. 
There was much of the **beau monde" at the rival but 
neighborly cities of Detroit and Monroe, and a constant 


intercourse was kept up, until the preponderance of the 
former city and the overwhelming influx of foreigners. 

Amusements were of the social rather than literary 
kind, and the social virtues never shone more brightly 
among any people. Nor were these confined to their own 
kini but were extended to the newly come, of whatever 
nationality. The old habitants of the better class still 


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retain a vivid recollection of those happy days, and will 
tell that no people ever enjoyed life so keenly. 

During the winter — which comprised nearly half the 
year — the settlements on the Detroit and River Raisin 
were almost shut out from the Eastern world. River 
craft were all laid up ; railroads were not in being ; and 
travel to the nearest Eastern cities was a long and painful 
journey. I have myself known Detroit to be without a 
New York mail for more than two weeks at a time, and 
have found it a week's journey, travelling by ordinary 
stage, day and night, through Canada to Buffalo. This 
was the season for French gayety and resource to display 
themselves. No aid from foreign sources was needed 
to make the winter pass pleasantly. And who could 
surpass the French for parties, balls and merry-mak- 
ings ! 

At these were gathered, especially, the young of both 
sexes, who kept up, until a late hour in the morning, 
that fascinating amusement of whose saltatory mazes a 
Frenchman never tires ; and here were exchanged 
glances from those lustrous black eyes, so suited to bru- 
nette complexions, and which lighted up even the most 
ordinary face, like native diamonds, sparkling through 
their rusty covering. And, indeed, the demoiselles were 
not to be despised for graces of face and figure; for 
though the men mostly had long, thin visages, scarcely 
in keeping with their fun-loving propensities, the girls 
were both plump and handsome. 

During the period of depression which followed the 
speculations of 1836, when a general stagnation and 
gloom overspread the whole land, there was no lack of 
French gayety. In the winter of 1841, when times were 
at their worst, this was manifested, even to an unusual 


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degree, in numerous balls and other social gatherings. 
With a characteristic tinge of superstition, the French 
considered this unusual gayety ominous of approaching 
war, or other calamity, and that they were impelled to it 
by some secret and uncontrollable impulse. Perhaps 
philosophy may find a more reasonable solution. I re- 
late the fact only. 

Sundays, as in all Roman Catholic countries, were 
holidays, and were improved as such to much greater ex- 
tent among the Canadians of half, or even quarter of a 
century ago, than now, among their descendants. Pos- 
sibly they were spent quite as innocently, though 
more noise and hilarity prevailed. The parents and 
daughters of the family travelled to church in sober 
jog-trot style enough, in carts drawn by a single pony. 
But the young men went mounted on their nags, and 
returned in the grand style, racing, with whoop and 
hurrah ! 

In winter these races were exchanged for trotting- 
matches on the ice, in their light, home-made carry-alls. 
Long and eager were the contests for superior speed and 
skill. No docks and piers then interfered with this 
winter use of the river, which was thus improved, from 
the very heart of the city, down to and up the Rouge. 
Many noted trotters and pacers are still to be found 
among the keen, little, rugged breed of Canadian horses. 
The example has not been lost upon the bloods of the 
modern city, famous yet for fast nags and fast men. 

A season of great excitement to the early settlers was 
that of the white-fishing, which was confined to the late 
fall months, commencing about the middle of October, 
and continuing until very cold weather. Seines only 
were used, and a feature in the river landscape, as 


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numerous and almost as atriking as the windmills, were 
the reels, the platform and the fish-houses which per- 
tained to the business. 

This season was looked forward to with great interest 
and pleasure, and was one of feasting and merriment, for 
the fish were as abundant and cheap as the flesh was 
admirable ; and for cooking these, as well as most other 
natural products of river and forest, none could excel 
the French. Although few engaged in the business — 
for the market was limited — almost every farm front 
was available. And truly it was an interesting and in- 
spiriting spectacle ; — the boats leaving the shore with the 
nets coiled on the stern, as the men pulled up the 
stream, until, reaching the channel bank, the net was 
dropped and the boat rowed rapidly back to the land, — 
the floats following in a graceful curved line ; while often 
a song kept time to the oars. Then as both ends were 
draWn briskly in, to see the beautifully white and silvery 
bodies glancing through the water, and finally tossed, all 
glowing and active, on the beach ! White-fishing is still 
pursued on the river, but the old-fashioned reel is to be 
seen in but one place within the limits of the extended 
modern city, — a place famous still for its fortunate 
ground, — the Loranger farm.* 

I cannot omit to mention a commendable trait in the 
French character, — their early and sincere attachment 
to the United States, and her republican institutions. 
To be known as a Frenchman was to be known as a 
patriot ; and in the times which tried men's souls — and 
few parts of our country had more varied and bitter 
experience — the Frenchman was always our reliable and 

* Now for many years docked and abandoned to business uses. 


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active ally ; cool and unflinching in danger ; shrewd and 
watchful when caution was most needed. If a man was 
wanted for a dangerous enterprise, it was a Frenchman 
who was chosen. 

Few now survive of the old habitants who were inter- 
ested and intelligent witnesses of General Hull's sur- 
render of the fort of Detroit, and with it of the whole ter- 
ritory of the North-west, to the British arms ; and the 
rapid succession of events has almost crowded out the 
recollection. But when I first came to reside here, the 
feeling of indignation was still fresh and warm, though 
more than twenty years had elapsed since that event. 
And it would have been a vain attempt to convince one 
of those who witnessed and entered into the scenes and 
feelings of those times, that the act was one of mere tim- 
idity and weakness, and not of downright treason. 

Among the many interesting reminiscences of that 
period which have been collected and published in news- 
papers from time to time by an honored citizen and 
friend (now, alas! departed — Judge Witherell), I am 
pleased to find honorable mention of Captain Whitte- 
more Knaggs, the patentee of the old farm to whose 
proprietorship I had the honor to succeed. As the 
record is illustrative of my theme, I make no apology 
for copying the following anecdote of my predecessor 
in the now peaceful homestead : 

*' Captain Knaggs was a firm and unflinching patriot, in 
times when patriotism was in demand, — during the war of 
1812. He was one of the Indian interpreters ; spoke 
freely six or seven of their languages, besides the English 
and the French, and possessed great influence with 
several warlike tribes. On the surrender of Detroit to 
the enemy he was, by the British commandant, ordered 


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to leave the country, and did so, of course, but joined the 
first corps of our army that advanced towards this fron- 
tier. He acted as guide to the division under General 
Winchester, and was at the fatal and bloody defeat of our 
troops at the Raisin. The British Indians discovered 
him after the surrender, and determined to kill him. 
There happened to be present, among the enemy,, an 
Indian whom Knaggs had often befriended in former 
years ; this Indian resolved to save him at every hazard, 
but the savages would not listen to him ; they were not 
yet fully gorged with blood. Nothing daunted, however, 
the brave red warrior placed himself between Knaggs 
and his foes, and for some time kept them off ; they 
pressed on, however, and, as a last resort, the brave fellow 
seized Knaggs around the waist, kept his own body be- 
tween him and the enemy, and kept whirling around, and 
so prevented the oft-repeated blows of the tomahawk 
and war-club from taking effect on the victim's head, until 
he succeeded in getting him in the midst of a number of 
horses that were harnessed together. Here they struck 
under at his legs, and over their backs at his head ; he, 
however, avoided the blows, till a British officer interposed 
and saved him. After escaping innumerable dangers and 
death, from the white and red warriors, he departed this 
life in peace, about 1827. 

" On the day of the surrender of this post, Knaggs' dwell- 
ing was sacked by the savages ; his furniture hewed and 
hacked to pieces, and all that was valuable to Indians 
was carried off. Mr. Knaggs had succeeded in saving a 
few blankets, and they had many wilcj ponies in the bush. 
During the year succeeding the surrender, in 1812, and 
while Knaggs was yet absent, very many of our people, 
soldiers and citizens, were brought in as prisoners by the 


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Indians, from the frontiers of Ohio, etc. Poor creatures 
were they, some wounded, many sickly, and all nearly 
naked, bare-headed and barefooted, the personification 
of misery and want, — compelled to follow their savage 
captors around the streets, and to sleep on the bare 
ground, in their smoky and filthy tents, or under the 
open sky. 

" The compassion of our citizens was deeply excited, and 
every effort was made in the power of a plundered and 
impoverished people to ransom the suffering captives. 
Mrs. Knaggs, among others, parted with horses, blankets, 
and nearly everything that she had saved from the pil- 
lage of her home, to purchase the freedom of the pris- 

The mother of Captain Knaggs, a lady eighty years of 
age, was compelled to /ide from Monroe to Detroit, on 
a traineau, on the ice, thinly clad, in the most severe 
winter weather. When asked why she did not freeze, 
she replied, " My spunk kept me warm." 

I do not mean to say that there were no exceptions to 
patriotic conduct among the French. During the war of 
1812 there were some who were suspected, and not with- 
out reason, of giving aid and comfort to the enemy. 
These excused their conduct on the pretence of fear of 
the Indians, who, especially after the defeat at the Raisin, 
were patrolling the country, in hostile bands, and com- 
mitting many savage atrocities. 

James, a brother of Captain Whittemore Knaggs, re- 
sided at the Raisin. Some of his neighbors were strongly 
suspected of favoring the British, if not of consorting 
with them and their Indian allies. Against these the 
indignation of James was aroused, and he did not hesi- 
tate at open accusation. A Mr. Lasselle was one of the 


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supposed culprits, and though he declared that his adhe- 
sion to the enemy was only feigned, for the protection of 
his family, James Knaggs would by no means admit the 
justice of his plea. Meeting him some time after the 
massacre, Lasselle offered his hand, which Knaggs scorn- 
fully refused, saying, ** I don't shake hands with traitors.*' 

James was at the battle of the Thames. He saw 
the shot fired by which Tecumseh was killed, and was 
one of two Frenchmen who brought off Colonel Johnson, 
wounded, from the field. 

Among a people so circumstanced as were the early 
settlers on these Straits, it may be imagined that schools 
did not receive a large degree of patronage. Few chil- 
dren learned to read and write ; but the catechism was 
taught by the priests, and the pious art of telling their 

At every few miles was to be seen the little chapel, 
surmounted by bell and cross, and sometimes a tin 
cock ; and in the open space in front was often erected 
a tall wooden cross, which on Corpus Christi and other 
festival days was crowned with flowers, and became the 
goal of a long procession of the young people. 

But, though good Catholics, the Canadians were not 
bigots. Their religion was simple as their tastes, and 
suited to the light-hearted gayety that was so promi- 
nent a characteristic. I speak in the past tense, because 
within the last quarter of a century many changes have 
taken place, mainly through the disturbing elements that 
have poured in around them. 

In spite of defective education, such is the native 
force of the French character that I have known, among 
the present generation, many a hard-working and success- 

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ful farmer, and an industrious and really accomplished 
mechanic, not one of whom could read or write. 

I should do injustice also to the merits of our old hab- 
itants if the conclusion was left to be drawn from the 
above observations, that neglect of education was uni- 
versal. This was not the case. There were schools at 
Detroit, besides the Sunday-schools, in the olden times ; 
and the labors of good Father Richard, in this direction, 
were appreciated, and are well remembered by many still 
living among us. 

The very Rev. Gabriel Richard, for many years a priest 
in this community, had the entire respect, confidence and 
affection of the whole people, and was the first represent- 
ative to Congress from the Territory of Michigan. At 
the commencement of the present century there were 
schools under his encouragement, if not due to his efforts, 
not only in the town of Detroit, but at Grand Marais, 
at Springwells, and at the River Huron. At " Spring 
Hill ** — a mile below the town — P^re Richard had estab- 
lished, not only an academy, but a printing-press. It 
was the first one that was set up in the territory, and 
here was published the first book printed in the North- 

In regard to these schools, the following pertinent 
facts are gathered from a quaint memorial, addressed by 
the reverend father to the then legislative authority of 
Michigan. It bears date Oct. 18, N. S., 1808. 

We learn from it, that " three of these schools are 
kept by the natives of the country, of whom tow \sic\ 
under the direction of the subscriber, have learned the 
first rudiments of English . and Latin languages, and 
some principles of Algebra and Geometry, so far as to the 
measurement of the figures engraved on the tomb of the 


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immortal Archimides/' Also, that in the Academy at 
Detroit " there are better than thirty young girls who are 
taught, as at Spring Hill, reading, writing, arithmetic, 
knitting, sewing, spinning, etc. In these two schools 
there are already three dozen of spinning-wheels and 
one loom, on which four pieces of linen or woollen cloth 
have been made this last spring or summer.'* I note 
this for the benefit of modern schools for young ladies, 
where the piano is so often thumped. It is pleasant to 
know that the ears of our neighbors of a century ago 
were more agreeably entertained with the music of the 

At this same Academy of Spring Hill — the memorial- 
ist goes on to say — "the number of the scholars has 
been augmented by four young Indians, headed by an 
old matron, their grandmother, of the. Pottawatamies 
tribe. Five or six more are expected to arrive every 

We are also told, that " to encourage the young 
Students by the allowment of pleasure and amusement,*' 
he had sent " orders to New York for a spinning-machine 
of about one hundred spindles, an air-pump, an electrical 
apparatus, etc.,*' and "a few colors for dyeing the stuff 
already made or to be made in his Academy.*' Take 
note of that, ye modern educators, who are in pursuit 
of sources of '* pleasure and amusement " for the young 
people ! V 

As a further memento of those times I add — verbatim 
et literatim — the concluding appeal of the Memorialist, 
asking that " for the encouragement of Litterature & 
Useful arts, to be taught in the same Academies, one of 
the 4 Lotteries authorised by the Hon. Leg. on the 
9th of 7ber, 1806, may be left to the management 


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of the subscriber, on conditions that may appear just 
& reasonable to the Board.'* 

A word about the language used by the French Cana- 
dian. It is generally believed that this has become so 
corrupted from the pure Parisian as to constitute a 
patois, so abominable as to be with difficulty understood 
by one skilled in the standard tongue of the Academy. 
The truth is, this so-called /^/^/.y is the old French tongue, 
continued almost unchanged, like the manners and 
habits of those who use it ; while the language of culti- 
vated France has undergone many modifications. 

It is satisfactory to find these observations upon the 
French character confirmed by an early authority. 
Charlevoix, who was at Quebec in 1720, says: **The 
Creoles of Canada draw in with their native breath an air 
of freedom, which renders them very agreeable in the 
commerce of life. And nowhere in the world is our lan- 
guage spoken in greater purity. There is not even the 
smallest foreign accent in their pronunciation." He 
describes them also, as " gay and sprightly, rusticity 
being unknown, even in the remotest parts.** 

I have alluded to one trait, in which the French 
emigres differed widely from the English and Spanish 
settlers in America, — their friendliness towards the abo- 
riginal inhabitants. This kindly disposition was appre- 
ciated by the Indians; so that the two races, whenever 
they fairly understood each other, lived in peace 

I am not aware that intermarriages were very frequent, 
or that this relationship was often entered into by the 
peasantry of this part of Canada. It was common 
enough at the remoter posts, down even to times with- 
in my personal knowledge. The Indian trader, whether. 


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Frenchman, Scotsman or Yankee, prompted partly by 
interest, usually took to himself an Indian wife. At 
such places as Mackinaw and Sault Ste. Marie, half-breeds 
were quite numerous, as they had been at Detroit at an 
earlier day. The class known as voyageurs — the cour- 
eurs de bois of the older times — had become, to a very 
considerable extent, of mixed blood. The licentious 
lawlessness of those wild-wood rangers was not only 
well-known, but was a subject of much complaint at a 
very early day. Certain it is, that in many points there 
was greater assimilation between the natives and the 
people from France, than was the case with the emi- 
grants from any other civilized country. 

In several excursions which I made, between 1836 and 
1840, in the wilderness portions of Michigan, and along 
the large streams and channels, it was not uncommon to 
find the solitary lodge of a Frenchman, with his squaw 
wife, and sometimes two wives, and a troop of half- 
breed children. They lived more like Indians than 
white people, associated chiefly with them, and de- 
pended upon fishing. 

The class of men known as coureurs de bois, or voya- 
geurs, was extinct at Detroit some time before my ac- 
quaintance began with the country and people. But at 
Mackinac and .on Lake Superior these found some- 
'what of their old employment, and retained a good 
degree of their ancient character. They manned the 
" Mackinac barge ** and the canoes of the fur traders 
that still plied along the northern waters of the Hud- 
son's Bay Company. 

A wild-looking set were these rangers of the woods 
and waters ! The weirdness was often enhanced by the 
dash of Indian blood. Picturesque, too, they were, in 

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their red flannel or leather shirts, and cloth caps of some 
gay color, finished to a point, which hung over on one 
side, with a depending tassel. 

They had a genuine love for this occupation, and 
muscles that seemed never to tire at the paddle and 
oar. From dawn to sunset, with only a short interval, 
and sometimes no midday rest, they would ply these 
implements, causing the canoe or barge to fly through 
the water like a thing of life ; but often contending 
against head-winds, and gaining but little progress in a 
day's rowing. But how sweet was the rest, when a favor- 
ing breeze sprung up, enabling the little craft to carry 
sail. Then in came the oars, and down lopped each 
mother's son, and in a few minutes was in the enjoy- 
ment of a sound snooze. 

The morning and evening meal consisted, almost in- 
variably, and from choice, of bouillon^ — a soup made 
from beans, peas, or hulled corn, with a piece of pork 
boiled in it, and hard-bread or sea-biscuit. To the 
Northern voyageurs, rations were generally served out 
of one quart of hulled corn and half a pint of bear's 
grease or oil, this being the daily and only food. The 
traveller, Henry, says (1776) : ** A bushel of hulled corn 
with two pounds of fat is reckoned to be a month's subsist- 
ence. No other allowance is made, of any kind, not 
even salt, and bread is never thought of. The difficulty 
which would belong to an attempt to reconcile any 
other men than Canadians to this fare seems to secure 
to them and their employees the monopoly of the fur- 
trade." As late as the end of the last century, Detroit 
was one of the principal depots for provisions, and fitting 
out for the Indian trade ; and here, particularly, the corn 
was prepared, hulled, boiled, and mixed with fat, for the 


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After supper, pipes were lighted, and, seated on logs 
or squatted around the camp-fire, they chatted until bed- 
time. This came early and required little preparation. 
To wrap a blanket around the person, placing coat or 
shoe-packs beneath the head, and a little greasy pillow — 
the only bed that was carried — constituted the whole 
ceremony ; and speedy and sound was the sleep, beneath 
the watchful stars. 

The labor of the oar was relieved by songs, to which 
each stroke kept time, with added vigor. The poet 
Moore has well caught the spirit of the voyageurs' me- 
lodious chant, in his ** Boat-Song upon the St. Law- 
rence." But to appreciate its wild sweetness one should 
listen to the melody, as it wings its way over the 
waters, softened by distance, yet every measured ca- 
dence falling distinct upon the ear. 

These songs are usually half ballad or ditty, and love, 
of course, the main theme. They express the natural 
feelings of a people little governed by the restraints of 
civilization. Here is a specimen, which I have pre- 
served. The words were sung by one of our party, and 
all joined in the chorus. 


La jeune Sophie Mais ce vous etre belle, 

Chantait I'autre jour, Ce n*est pas de jour ; 

Son echo lui repet^, Ce n'est que vos yeaux 

Que non pas d'amour Qui bris ^ la chandelle. 

N'est pas de bon jour. Mais ce v.ous, etc. 

Je suis jeune et belle, Unisons ensemble, — 

Je vieux m^ engage Son cour et le mien, — 

Un amant fidele, Pourquoi tant le defendre, 

Je suis jeune, etc. Puis quMl s'amaient bien ? 

Unisons, etc. 

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' Point temps de badinage, La jeune Sophie, 

' Envers mon amant, Chantant T autre jour, etc. 

f Car il est jaloux : [Repeat] 
Tout lui port embrage. 
Point temps, etc. 

Sometimes the bon vivant is predominant, as in the 

following rude song : 

Mon pere a fait bati maison, 
^ Ha, ha, ha, frit \ Thuile, 

Sont trois charpentiers qui 1^ font, 

Fritaine, friton, fritou, poilon, 

Ha, ha, ha, frit ^ I'huile, 

Frit au beurre i I'ognon. 

Sont trois charpentiers qui la font, 

Ha, ha, ha, frit a Thuile, 
Qu* apporte tu dans ton giron ? 

Fritaine, friton, fritou, poilon. 
Ha, ha, ha, frit ^ Thuile. 

Qu* apporte tu dans ton giron ? 
, Ha, ha, ha, frit i Thuile, 

C'est un pit^ de trois pigeons, 
Fritaine, friton, fritou, poilon. 
Ha, ha, ha, etc. 

^ C'est un p&t^ de trois pigeons, 

Ha, ha, ha, frit k Thuile, 
Assieds-toi et le mangeons, 
I Fritaine, friton, fritou, poilon, 

Ha, ha, ha, frit i Thuile, 
Frit au beurre et ^ Tognon, etc., etc. 

^ These boat-songs were often heard upon our river, 

and were very plaintive. In the calm of evening, when 
sounds are heard with greater distinctness, and the 
harsher notes are toned down and absorbed in the pre- 
vailing melody, it was sweet, from my vine-mantled 
' porch, to hear the blended sounds of song and oar, 

• " By distance mellowed, o*er the waters sweep." 


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To my half-dreaming fancy, at such times, they have as- 
sumed a poetic, if not a supernatural character, wafting 
me into elf-land, on wings of linked sweetness. 

" Some spirit of the air has waked the string ; 
'Tis now a seraph bold, with touch of fire, 
And now the brush of fancy's frolic wing." 

At Other times these sounds harmonize with scenes 
that are still more inspiring. Seldom have I witnessed 
a more animating spectacle than that of a large canoe, 
belonging to the Hudson's Bay Company, manned by a 
dozen voyageurs, — the company's agents seated in the 
centre, — ^propelled with magic velocity, as if instinct 
with life, every paddle keeping time to the chorus that 
rang far and wide over the waters ! 

But times have changed, and with them have passed 
from our midst the voyageur and his song. French 
gayety is rapidly ebbing into more sober channels. 
Even the priests have set their faces against balls and 
merry-makings ! 

As I call up these reminiscences, with the same noble 
river in my view, I listen in vain for the melodies which 
were once the prelude to many joyous hours of early 
manhood. But instead, my ear is larumed by the 
shriek of the steam whistle and the laborious snort of 
the propeller. 

All announce that on these shores and waters the age 
of the practical, hard-working, money-getting Yankee^s 
upon us ; and that the careless, laughter-loving French- 
man's day is over! 

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On the 1 2th August, 1879, at Grosse Pointe, where the Lake Ste. Claire 
begins to narrow into the Straits, or River Detroit, a celebration took place. 
The occasion was the Second Centennial anniversary of the discovery of the 
lake, and the bestowal of its name, by Robert Cavelier, Sieurde la Salle, 
commander of the "Griffin," the first sailing vessel that ascended the lakes. 

The programme of the exercises contained a wood-cut of the " Griffin," 
from a sketch by his Honor, Judge James V. Campbell, and an announce- 
ment as follows : 

Regatta, with Aquatic sports ; Music ; Prayer by Father De Brouex, in 
French ; Historical Address, by Bela Hubbard ; Song, " Men of ye Olden 
Time," by D. B. Duffield, Esq. ; Poem, " Legend of L'Anse Creuse," by 
Hon. J. V. Campbell ; Brief Addresses ; Music ; Fireworks. 

All which came off duly and pleasantly, under the skilful leadership of 
Hon. G. V. N. Lothrop, president of the day. 

The Address was as follows : 


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IT IS good for us to look back into the past. The 
custom of celebrating the anniversaries of events that 
have had important influence upon a nation's history, 
or the welfare of mankind, is justly honored in the ob- 
servance. That which we are met to commemorate has 
remained unhonored for 200 years. Yet two centuries 
ago to-day occurred an event which has mightily in- 
fluenced the destinies of our race and proved an epoch 
in the history of this continent ! It was the launching at 
Niagara and the arrival at this Point of a little vessel — 
not so large as many of our pleasure yachts — but the 
precursor of a long line of craft, of every size and char- 
acter, which, passing through these waters, has swollen 
into a commerce that has become the wonder of the 

I have undertaken to relate the story of this achieve- 
ment and of the naming of Lake Ste. Claire, in the 
default of those whose superior local knowledge and 
research would have entertained us with ** Outlines'* of 
far greater interest and value. I propose to engraft 
upon the story of the " Grifiin '* some memories of the 
extraordinary man with whom the conception originated. 

Of all whose names are associated with enterprise and 
discovery in New France, the Sieur de la Salle is the 
most illustrious. The history of his various undertak- 
ings is drawn mainly from the writings of Hennepin, 


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Joliet, and Membre, and the details have been collected 
into a fascinating volume by Parkman. I trust that a 
brief recital will not be uninteresting. He was of an 
honorable family, a burger of Rouen, where he was born 
in 1643, and named Robert Cavelier, better known as 
the Sieur de la Salle, from the name of his estate near 
Rouen. He was educated among the Jesuits, but, 
preferring science to theology, and being of a daring 
spirit and eager for adventure, he sailed for Canada — 
that paradise of adventure — being then twenty-three 
years of age. 

According to an unpublished memoir, we first find him, 
in 1669, making his way with a Seneca guide to the Ohio, 
which he descended as far as the rapids at Louisville. 
Here, abandoned by his men, he retraced his steps 
alone. The following year, according to the same 
authority, embarking in a canoe on Lake Erie, he 
reached the Straits of Detroit, coasted lakes Huron and 
Michigan, and descended the Mississippi to the 35th 
degree of latitude. Assured that the Father of Rivers 
discharged not into the Gulf of California, as had until 
then been supposed, but into that of Mexico, he re- 
turned to provide means for more extended exploration. 
Unfortunately, La Salle's journals, and a map which he 
is known to have, made, and which existed in 1756, are 
lost. If the accounts be correct, these would have given 
to the world the first knowledge of the Ohio, if not of 
the Mississippi. 

It is certainly known that the latter stream was explored 
in 1673 by Father Jacques Marquette, accompanied by 
Louis Joliet, an adventurous merchant, and the subse- 
quent associate of La Salle. These did not, however, 
go far enough to solve the problem of its terminus. 


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That these straits were visited by the white man at 
a much earlier period is matter of history. The usual 
route of the French from the lower settlements to their 
missions and trading-posts on the upper lakes was by the 
Ottawa, being the most direct route. Champlain him- 
self had in 161 1 and 161 2 ascended that river as far as 
Lake Huron. There he visited the country of the Sacs, 
near Saginaw Bay, returning by way of the straits and 
Lake Erie, as is shown by his book published at Paris 
in 1632. Accompanying La Salle's first expedition 
(1669) were two priests of the order of Sulpitians — Dol- 
lier and Galinee — who, on arriving at Niagara, were di- 
verted from their purpose, and resolved to carry their 
spiritual succor to the Pottawatomies of the upper lakes. 
After various misadventures, resulting in the loss of a 
great part of their baggage, including the altar service — 
a mishap they attributed to the malice of the devil — 
they reached the Detroit in the spring of 1670. Here 
they relate : " At the end of six leagues we found a very 
remarkable place, in great veneration among all the 
savages of these regions, because of an idol of stone 
which nature has formed there, to which they say they 
owe the good fortune of their navigation on Lake Erie, 
and which they propitiate with presents of skins, pro- 
visions, etc." The stone was hideously painted, and 
bore a rude resemblance to humanity. They were con- 
vinced that this was the devil, to whom they owed their 
shipwreck. The relation proceeds : " I leave you to 
think whether we avenged on this idol (which the Iro- 
quois had greatly recommended us to honor) the loss 
of our chapel. We also attributed to it the scarcity of 
provisions we had been in up to this time. In fine, there 
was not a person whose hatred it had not incurred." 


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The priest tells us that he consecrated one of his axes 
to break this stone god ; then " having lashed two 
canoes together, we carried the fragments to the middle 
of the river, so that no one should hear of it again." 
" God,** he says, " immediately rewarded us for this good 
action, for we killed the same day a buck and a bear." 

This place being, as the narrative tells us, ** full of the 
lodges of those who had come to render their homage to 
this stone,*' it seems incredible that such a deed could 
be done in the very presence of its savage worshippers, 
if it were indeed a manitou. Whether the savages were 
restrained by the audacity of the act, or the huge pro- 
portions of one of the reverend friars, or whether they 
attached less importance to the " idol ** than these zeal- 
ous iconoclasts supposed, does not appear. Sacred 
stones were not uncommon in these parts. I have seen 
several such altars, sometimes in the most wild and 
lonely situations, invariably covered with bits of tobacco 
and other petty gifts, which cost little sacrifice. 

Several years had passed since these adventures, but La 
Salle had lost neither energy nor purpose. Means only 
were lacking^ But he had rich relatives, and he was 
aided, so far as authority could go, by the most energetic 
and astute governor that had yet administered the affairs 
of Canada. Together they planned a post on Lake On- 
tario, far beyond the settlements of the St. Lawrence, 
which might overawe the Iroquois and turn to France the 
stream of wealth that was inuring to the Dutch and 
English from the fur trade. Twice La Salle visited 
France, where his influence at court obtained for him 
permission to pursue his plans at his own expense for 
five years. He received from the king a patent of no- 


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bility and a grant in seigniory of Fort Frontenac, as the 
new post was called. 

But the ardent nature of the man was not content with 
the prospect of fortune now secured. To him it was 
only a base for operations of vaster extent and bolder 
enterprise. The object which he had in view was most 
comprehensive. If the project of a passage to China, 
across the continent, proved delusive, he would anticipate 
the Spaniards and the English in their occupation of the 
great West. He would colonize it with Frenchmen, de- 
velop its resources, make friends of the Indian tribes, 
and, by controlling the mouth of the Mississippi, secure 
an outlet for a vast trade in the future. As necessary to 
his scheme he proposed to build a vessel for the naviga- 
tion of the lakes, above the Niagara, where only canoes 
had been seen before, sufficiently large to carry the ma- 
terial needed for so vast an enterprise. In the corps or- 
ganized for this expedition were two noted men, after- 
wards famous in Canadian annals. Henry De Tonty, 
his lieutenant, was a young Italian officer who had lost a 
hand in the Sicilian wars, and whom political troubles 
had driven to the New World. For the lost member he 
had substituted one of iron, which gained him the sobri- 
quet of the " iron hand.'* It was symbolic of his indom- 
itable character. The other adventurous spirit was the 
bold, audacious, and hardy friar, P^re Louis Hennepin, 
who had more taste for wild and romantic travel than for 
the spiritual part of his mission. He became the liisto- 
rian of the expedition, but is too little trustworthy, and 
is inclined to magnify his own exploits at the expense of 
others of greater merit. 

The place where was built the first vessel that sailed 
the upper lakes is the mouth of a small stream, the Cay- 


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uga, about six miles above the cataract, on the west 
side of Niagara River. Hennepin says: "Most of the 
Iroquois were gone to wage war on the other side of 
Lake Erie," so, though exposed to occasional alarms, 
the party were in little danger. Two Mohegan hunters 
prepared lodges and supplied game. The vessel was 
finished early in the spring of 1679. She was, according 
to Hennepin's first account, of about forty-five tons bur- 
den. He afterwards reports it as sixty tons, which is 
much more probable, considering the number of men and 
munitions she carried. Accompanying Hennepin's vol- 
ume is an engraving representing her in an unfinished 
state. The drawing made by Judge Campbell and printed 
on the programme of to-day's exercises, gives a clear 
idea of its character. It was a two-masted schooner, but 
of a fashion peculiar to that day, having double decks, 
and a high poop projected over the stern, where was the 
main cabin, and over this rose another and smaller 
cabin, doubtless for the use of the commander. The 
stern was thus carried up, broad and straight, to consid- 
erable height. Bulwarks protected the quarter deck. 
She bore on her prow a huge figure, skilfully carved, in 
imitation of an heraldic monster — the arms of Count 
Frontenac — ** and above it an eagle." This, in the repre- 
sentation, adorns the top of the stern. La Salle bore no 
good-will to the Jesuits, who hated him, and he often 
boasted that he would make the " Griffin " fly above the 
ravens', meaning that he would triumph over the black- 
coats. The ship " carried five small cannon, three of which 
were brass, and three harquebusses, and the rest of the 
ship had the same ornaments as men-of-war use to have." 
" It might have been called," adds the historiographer, 
'' a moving fortress." In fine, it *' was well equipped with 

Digitized by 




sails, masts, and all other things necessary for navigation,'* 
besides arms, provisions, and merchandise. 

The previous autumn La Salle had sent fifteen men up 
the lakes to trade for furs, and open his way to the Illi- 
nois. He also despatched Tonty to the mouth of the strait 
to intercept these should they be returning. Then with 
much difficulty the vessel was urged up the two and one- 
half leagues that remained between the building site and 


the lake. Onthe 7th of August the thirty-four voyageurs 
embarked, spread their canvas to a favoring breeze, and 
having sung Te Deum, set forth on their voyage. The 
ship proved a good sailer. On the nth they entered "a 
strait thirty leagues long and one broad," called in the 
language of the French, " the Detroit," where they were 
joined by Tonty, and the next day reached the beautiful 
expanse which spreads before us. 


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Tradition says that on reaching the lake they were 
wind-bound for several days, and this is rendered proba- 
ble by the fact that they did not reach Lake Huron until 
the 23d. Here, too, let us stop, and inquire whence was 
derived the name which the lake bears. On Champlain's 
map (1632) no name appears. Sanson's map, published 
officially 1656, calls it **the lake of salt waters; " Huron 
being designated at that period as " le mer douce," or the 
fresh-water sea. Galinee, the hero of the stone idol, 
who passed here nine years before, says, "We saw no 
mark of salt in this lake." The notion probably or- 
iginated from the brackish springs which exist at the 
mouth of the Clinton River. Hennepin tells us that 
"the Iroquois who pass over it frequently, when upon 
their warlike designs, call it Otsi-Keta." It bore, also, 
according to Judge Campbell, the Indian names of Kan- 
dekie and Ganatchio. Many suppose that the lake was 
called after Patrick St. Clair, who was lieutenant-gov- 
ernor at Mackinaw in 1783. But this is altogether too 

It was a custom of French voyageurs in new regions 
to bestow upon any prominent feature of the landscape 
the name of the saint to whom the day of the discovery 
was dedicated in the church calendar. There was a saint 
who bore the present modernized name, and who was 
one of the headless saints, a martyr to his virtue, but his 
calendar day is November. The saint whose name was 
really bestowed, and whose day is August 12, is the female 
** Sainte Claire," the foundress of the order of Franciscan 
nuns of the thirteenth century, known as " Poor Claires." 
Clara d'Assisi was the beautiful daughter of a nobleman 
of great wealth, who early dedicated herself to a relig- 
ious life and went to St. Francis to ask for advice. 


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On Palm Sunday she went to church with her family 
dressed in rich attire, where St. Francis cut off her long 
hair with his own hands and threw over her the coarse pen- 
itential robes of the order. She entered the convent of 
SanDamiano in spite of the opposition of her family and 
friends. It is related of her that on one occasion, when 
the Saracens came to ravage the convent, she arose from 
her bed, where she had been long confined, and placing 
the pyx, which contained the host, upon the threshold, 
she kneeled down and began to sing, whereupon the 
infidels threw down their arms and fled. Sancta Clara 
is a favorite saint all over Europe, and her fame in the 
New World ought not to be spoiled — like the record 
of the dead in a battle gazette — by a misspelt name I 

The interest of the subject will, I know, with my 
present auditors, pardon the introduction of a few 
further researches into the history of the Lady Claire. 
She was one of the most celebrated foundresses of orders 
in the Roman church. Besides the Clarisses, instituted 
in 1212, she is said to have founded the Capucines, the 
Annonciades, the Cordolieres or Gray Sisters, the Nuns 
of the Ave Marie and of the Conception, and the Recol- 
letes. At a time when all the communities were extort- 
ing from the popes the authorization to possess prop- 
erty, she solicited from Innocent IV., in favor of her 
order of Franciscans, the privilege of perpetual poverty ! 
F. Way, in his work on Rome, published in 1875, says: 
" Sancta Clara has her tomb at the Minerva, and she 
dwelt between the Pantheon and the Thermae of 
Agrippa. The tenement she occupied at the time of her 
decease still exists, but is not well known. In a little 
triangular place on or near Via Tor. Argentina, lodged 
the first convent of the Clarisses. If, crossing the gate- 


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way, you turn to the left of the court, you will face two 
windows of a slightly raised ground floor. It was there 
Innocent IV. visited her, and there on the I2th August, 
1253, listening to the reading of the Passion, in the 
midst of her weeping nuns, died the first abbess of the 
Clarisses and the founder of 4000 religious houses.** 

We are not told with what imposing ceremonies the 
christening was performed, but surely some inspiration 
was derived from the beautiful scenes of nature through 
which the voyageurs had just passed, which then sur- 
rounded them, and which to our eyes this day are no 
less lovely and inspiring. The natural beauty of the 
region lying between lakes Erie and Huron had been 
recorded by all the early travellers, with words of admira- 
tion. Many of the islands were low, and some of the 
river margins scarcely above the water. But all was 
green and peaceful. Dark forests extended to the river 
edge, and many a tall monarch of the wood waved its 
gigantic arms over the brink, and was reflected in a 
glassy surface which no tide or flood ever disturbed. 
The marshes were luxuriant with wild rice, that fur- 
nished a sumptuous repast to a great variety of birds 
and water fowl, and even a welcome supply to the 
Indians. Occasional villages and bark wigwams enliv- 
ened the shore, surrounded with gardens and corn fields, 
and the most elevated points were crowned with burial 
mounds. Most of the shores had high banks and were 
covered with timber. Especial notice is bestowed upon 
Grosse Isle, and forest-crowned Isle au Cochon — Belle 
Isle— lay like an emerald gem, in its setting of bright 

The choniclers all allude to the abundance of wild 
game and fruits. There were " apples as large as the 


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Pommes d'Api/' or Lady Apples, and nuts "like 
moderate sized oranges.*' La Hontan says '* the pears 
are good but rare.*' The apples were probably crabs, 
though one writer speaks of the trees as set methodi- 
cally ; but who can tell us what were the pears ? Can it 
be that the famous French pear trees, whose origin no 
man living knows, existed here as natives at that day? 
The beauties of the passage filled our voyageurs with 
rapturous delight. Hennepin records the loveliness of 
the shores, the prairies, and the forests. The ** Griffin ** 
was covered with game and fruits which had been 
gathered in great abundance and with little effort. The 
fruit consisted of chestnuts, walnuts, and butternuts, 
apples, pears, plums, and grapes ; the game of deer and 
many smaller animals, and flocks of swans, ducks, and 
turkeys, and they had feasted on the meat of a bear 
they had killed. The Father adds, "They who shall 
have the happiness some day to inhabit this pleasant 
and fertile country will remember their obligation to 
those who first showed them the way.*' 

The chronicles are silent as to Indian settlements on 
the Straits, which is not singular, considering that they 
seldom recorded such things unless there was special 
occasion. The white occupation followed closely upon 
this period. A fort was established, as we know, near 
where Port Huron now is, in 1687 \ and it would appear 
from a memoir of the Sieur de Tonty, then on his way 
down from the Illinois, that something of the kind ex- 
isted in the same year between lakes Erie and St. Claire. 
He says: ** We came on the 19th of May to Fort Detroit. 
We made some canoes of elm, and I s^nt one of them 
to Fort St. Joseph on the high ground above Detroit, 
thirty leagues from where we were, to give the Sieur 


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du Leet (who commanded there) information of my 
arrival." Twenty-two years after the visit of the. " Grif- 
fin *' the first colonization was begun in this region, at 
the place which now monopolizes the name of " Detroit." 

Le Ditroity or the Straits — under which name the 
French included the entire passage between lakes Erie and 
Huron — was visited by Charlevoix in 1720, who thus 
records his opinion of the country. ** Above the Isle 
of Sainte Claire the Detroit widens and forms a lake, 
which has received its name from the island, or which 
has given its name to the latter. It is about six leagues 
long by as many wide in some places. This is pro- 
nounced the most beautiful part of Canada, and truly, 
judging by appearances. Nature has refused it nothing 
which can constitute a charming country; low hills, 
prairies, plains, old forests, streams, springs, rivers, all 
are so good of their kind, and so happily assorted, that 
one knows nothing further to be desired. The lands 
are of admirable fertility. The islands seem to have 
been placed with a view to charm the senses. The 
river and the lake are full of fish, the air pure, and 
the climate temperate and very healthy.*' 

The many beautiful homes we see around us to-day 
show how amply these favorable judgments of the early 
chroniclers have been confirmed and illustrated by those 
to whom the inheritance has fallen. 

I shall follow very cursorily in the path of La Salle 
and his party. The " Griffin," which hitherto had been 
favored with prosperous winds, encountered off Saginaw 
Bay a furious storm, which sorely tried the skill and 
courage of the voyageurs. Nor did it calm until they 
had called upon St. Anthony of Padua— the patron of 
mariners— to whom, says Membr6, ** they made a vow, 


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which delivered them by a kind of miracle." Hennepin 
narrates that during the height of the gale " everybody 
fell on his knees to say his prayers and prepare for 
death, except our pilot, whom we could never oblige to 
pray, and he did nothing all the while but curse and 
swear against M. de La Salle, who had brought him 
thither to perish in a nasty lake and lose the glory he 
had acquired by his long and happy navigation of the 
ocean." At length, escaped the tempest, they reached 
Point St. Ignace, the centre of the Jesuit missions and 
the Indian trade. 

A very slight sketch must here suffice us of the 
further fortunes of La Salle ; and the fate of the " Grif- 
fin " will command our interest. Brave, adventurous and 
successful as were the early explorers of New France, 
there was but small recognition of their services, either 
by the Government at home or in the New World. A 
deep jealousy of La Salle's designs pervaded the fur 
traders as well as the Jesuits, and made them hostile to 
his enterprise, since it threatened injury to their private 
gains. Had Jesuit and Recollet, merchant and officer, 
constituted a band of brothers, all would have gone well 
for France in the New Wofld. Unhappily it was far 
otherwise. The clashings of interest could never be 
reconciled, and it often happened that the meetings of 
white men in the far wilderness were those of enemies 
in disguise. Of the fifteen men sent out by La Salle 
the year before, a few who remained faithful had col- 
lected at Green Bay a store of furs, which he resolved to 
send back with the vessel to satisfy his creditors, while 
he, with his stores, his Mohegan, and his three friars, 
should continue up Lake Michigan. After completing 
her errand the " Griffin *' was to return to St. Joseph, 


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where a fort should be built, and preparations made for 
the descent of the Mississippi. 

But the "Griffin** was never heard from again. 
Whether she foundered or was burned by the Ottawas is 
not known. La Salle believed she was treacherously- 
sunk by the pilot to whom he had entrusted her. What 
ever was her fate, the salt-water hero of the storm on 
Lake Huron was doomed to perish in " the nasty fresh 
water " which he so detested. 

The loss was vital. Yet the brave-hearted cavalier, 
undeterred by a misfortune so great, pushed on to 
Illinois, where he built a fort. Leaving Tonty and 
Hennepin to occupy the fort, and in the midst of a sav- 
age winter, he made his way back on foot to his far dis- 
tant Fort Frontenac. The path led through wilds un- 
known, across the Michigan peninsula. He crossed the 
Detroit on a raft, and almost alone, for his men were 
worn out, reached his seigniory. Thence he hurried to 
Montreal, giving no rest to his ardent spirits and iron 
nerve. Here the intelligence met him of the desertion 
of his men and the destruction of his fort on the Illinois. 
Tonty and Hennepin must be rescued. With their aid 
and with fresh supplies he • might yet save the vessel, 
which was on the stocks, and make good the descent of 
the Mississippi. He returned to Ottawa and reached his 
destination, only to find a solitude. The dreaded Iro- 
quois had driven off or murdered his friendly Illinois, 
the plain was strewn with mangled corpses, and no tid- 
ings could be learned, of Tonty. 

We are told of new schemes which now occupied his 
fertile brain, among which was that of a grand confed- 
eracy of the tribes against the common foe. We are 
told of the recovery of his two companions in the spring, 


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with whom he paddled back to Fort Frontenac ; of his 
commutation with his creditors, by the loss of half his 
seigniory, and of his third journey to Illinois to recover 
the lost ground. Abandoning the building of a vessel, 
and dragging their canoes on sledges, they embarked, 
and on the 6th of February, amid floating ice, issued 
forth on the majestic Mississippi. With his small party, 
and amid new and strange scenes, they reached the out- 
let of the great river, and on the 9th of April, 1682, 
La Salle planted his standard and took possession of 
Louisiana, " in the name of the most high, mighty, in- 
vincible, and victorious prince, Louis the Great, by the 
grace of God king of France and Navarre." What did 
not such zeal and enterprise deserve of his country, for 
which he had obtained an empire so boundless? But 
what availed this success to a prince who, though so 
" high and mighty," had not contributed a sou to the 
enterprise, and who could write thus to the governor of 
Canada : " I am convinced, like you, that the discovery 
of the Sieur de la Salle is very useless, and that such 
enterprises ought to be prevented in future, as they tend 
only to debauch the inhabitants by the hope of gain and 
to diminish the revenue from beaver skins ! *' 

Need I recount how this great man, ignorant of the 
change in the Government and filled with bright visions 
of the future, retraced his steps to the Illinois, where his 
influence had assembled thousands of Indian warriors 
friendly to his cause , how that here he learned not only 
that the new governor, Le Barre, turned a deaf ear to 
his appeals, but that under a frivolous pretext he had 
seized and wasted his property and reduced him to 
poverty, and how nothing remained but for him to again 


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cross the seas and lay his cause before his sovereign in 
person ? 

It must suffice me to say of this personal appeal to 
the throne that truth and eloquence once more gained 
for La Salle a just recognition of his great services. 
Having thus recovered his influence he was enabled to 
carry out a scheme worthy his character and fame, — the 
' colonization of Louisiana. He was granted four vessels 
and one hundred soldiers, besides ship-builders, mechan- 
ics, and laborers, and many so-called ** gentlemen of con- 
dition.'* Poor material these for a colony in the wilder- 
ness, but a more prudent addition was made in a num- 
ber of girls, who joined the expedition with the prospect 
of becoming wives to the colonists. Alas, that of this 
well-concerted project we have to record only the most 
bitter failure ! From lack of harmony between the 
leader and his captains, ignorance of the coast, or design 
on the part of the pilot, the fleet sailed past the mouths 
of the river, and in attempting to land the store-ship was 
wrecked, with the loss of most of her cargo. The naval 
commander spread his sails and returned to France, leav- 
ing on a wild and desolate shore a forlorn hope, — the in- 
fant colony who were to conquer for France a territory 
half as large as Europe. After a winter spent in vain at- 
tempts to find the fatal river a settlement was begun. 
But two years of suffering and disappointment reduced 
their number to less than one-fourth. La Salle now 
attempted to make his way, with a trusted few, across 
the country to the river and thence to Canada, to obtain 
succor for the colony. With this party were two men 
who had sworn vengeance upon their leader. On the 
morning of May i6, 1687, they killed his three servants, 
including his faithful Indian hunter, and as La Salle him- 


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self approached where the murderers lay, a bullet pierced 
his brain and he fell dead. 

Thus perished at the age of forty-four years a man of 
whose like there have been few examples. In his active 
nature and determined energy a close resemblance may 
be found in our own youthful Houghton. He had spent 
twenty years in incessant activity, and in pursuit of his 
grand scheme, as he himself says, had " traversed more 
than 5000 leagues of new and unknown territory, among 
savage and cannibal nations, often on foot, through snow 
and water, without escort, without provisions, without 
bread, without wine, without recreation, and without 
repose." And now nothing remained of all his labors. 

It would be too much to say that no selfish motive 
actuated him. He hoped to make for himself an abid- 
ing fame, and, doubtless, he looked for the time when 
wealth and power should reward his toils. But he was 
essentially a man whose heart was in the work of discov- 
ery, and in this field there is no brighter name in Ameri- 
can annals. 

It is for us, who share the benefit of his life, to per- 
petuate his memory. But where or how shall we erect 
his monument ? A few years ago there was in the city 
of Detroit a street called by his name ; a petty tribute, 
but even this has disappeared in the demand for a new 
nomenclature. Another street, recently opened in the 
western suburb, alone bears evidence of his honored 
memory. Let me add a suggestion. On the outer 
walls of the beautiful edifice which Detroit has erected 
as her hotel de ville, or city hall, are four niches de- 
signed for statues. They are now empty. Let them be 
filled with marble images of men whose names and fame 
are indissolubly associated with this region. 


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Foremost will be that of the Sieur de la Salle. An 
engraved portrait of him is given by Hennepin, from 
which his features may be modelled ; and we have a Suf- 
ficiently accurate description of his tall figure and manly 
and somewhat austere bearing. On the occasion of his 
visit with the " Griffin " he donned, when it seemed advis- 
able to make some display, a scarlet coat with gold trim- 
mings. The dress of a gentleman of that period in 
Canada is well known, and there should be no difficulty 
in sufficiently distinguishing him. 

The other pedestals may be filled with men of noble 
fame, whom France gave to America, and who belong to 
us. I need only mention De la Motte Cadillac, the 
founder of Detroit, — a portrait of whom is known to 
have existed, for which search is being made, and (as 
Hon. Levi Bishop assures us) with promise of success. 
The devoted and self-sacrificing Jesuit, P^re Marquette, 
than whom none is more deserving ; and lastly, though 
of later time, the Catholic priest whom all loved, and 
who first represented this territory in Congress, Father 
Richard. Of him an excellent portrait is extant. The 
flowing yet diverse robes of the two priests will contrast 
strikingly with the rich official vestments of the noble- 
man and the courtier. 

And now, as we look back upon the past that we have 
recalled, with its wild surroundings, its hopes, and its 
disappointments, and note the changes which two cent- 
uries have wrought, let us take heart, and hope that the 
future of this great country will be more glorious than 
the discoverer's wildest dreams 1 


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(Statue— City Hall, Detroit, 1884.; 



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" During the course of a long life, in which I have made observations on 
public affairs, it has appeared to me that almost every war between the 
Indians and Whites has been occasioned by some injustice of the latter 
towards the former. It is indeed extremely imprudent in us to quarrel 
with them for their lands, as they are generally willing to sell, and sell such 
good bargains ; and a war with them is so mischievous to us, in unsettling 
frequently a great part of our frontiers, and reducing the inhabitants to 
poverty and distress, and is besides so expensive, that it is much cheaper 
as well as honester to buy their lands than to take them by force." — Letter 
^Benjamin Franklin, 1787. 


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THOUGH it is many years since the last individual 
has disappeared of the several Indian villages that, 
on the first establishment of the French, peopled the 
shores of the Detroit, there yet remain in Michigan small 
remnants of tribes belonging to several nations. 

At the establishment of the present State Government, 
in 1836, the most numerous of these tribes or nations 
was the Chippewas, — or Ogibways, according to their 
language. They claimed a large portion of the .country 
bordering upon Lake Superior, and were scattered 
through the valleys o£ the Grand and Saginaw rivers. 
There were small bands of Ottawas and Pottawatomies 
living upon reservations in the western part of the penin- 
sula, upon and near Lake Michigan, and a small band of 
Sauks or Sacs (the tribe to which the celebrated war 
chief. Black Hawk, belonged) were settled upon a reser- 
vation on the Huron River. 

A considerable portion of the upper peninsula of 
Michigan, when the writer first visited it, in 1840, was 
still unceded Indian territory. 

In most of the Indian cessions to the United States 
reservations were made, at favorite points on the 
streams, of extent sufficient for the wants of the greatly 
reduced bands, or such portions of them as did not wish 
to remove to lands offered them by the Government, 
beyond the Mississippi. Of these, few now remain in 
Indian possession. 



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However just may be the complaints of injustice done 
to the aboriginal tribes of America, in the bargains so 
often made with them for the purchase of the lands held 
or claimed as theirs, it is gratifying to record, that no 
stigma attaches to any transactions of this nature within 
the limits of Michigan. Full compensation has. been 
given in all cases. In the treaty made through Mr. 
Schoolcraft, as commissioner on the part of the United 
States, for the territory claimed by the Chippewas of 
Saginaw, the price paid was probably more than the 
Government will ever realize from the public sales of the 
lands ceded. 

Though, with the exception of small reservations, all 
the lower peninsula had been ceded to the United States, 
there remained in 1837 ^ very considerable Indian popu- 
lation, residing in villages and small agricultural commu- 
nities, at various points. These received annuities from 
the federal government, through Indian agents. Schools 
were also established among them, each community was 
provided with a blacksmith, maintained at the national 
expense, and considerable sums were yearly expended in 
the encouragement of agriculture. The entire Indian 
population of the State, at that time, was probably not 
less than 15,000. 

In Clark's Gazetteer of Michigan, for 1863, are enumer- 
ated the following, as the entire Indian population : 


Chippewas of Lake Superior 7 1,004 

Ottawas and Chippewas south of Lake Superior 49 4.826 

Chippewas of Saginaw 13 1,632 

Chippewas, Ottawas and Pottawatomies of southern counties. . 2 235 

Pottawatomies of Huron i 51 

Totals 72 7,748 


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Among these are twenty-eight schools, supported by 
the federal government. 
^ They have six smiths, and from fifteen to eighteen 

^ missionaries. 

The Government pays annually : 

In cash annuities, about $40,000 

In goods 3»ooo 

For schools, smiths and agricultural purposes 20,000 

For agencies 8,000 

Total $70,000 

which amounts to more than nine dollars for each man, 
woman and child. 

Yet all this provident care does not prevent their 
rapid diminution. 
} In the fall of 1837 I visited a village of the Chippe- 

WcLs of Saginaw. It was situated on the river Tittaba- 
wassee, sixteen miles above Saginaw City. The small- 
pox had lately visited the band, and the village was 
nearly deserted. It consisted of a few lodges only. 
These differed from any I had before seen ; being built 
of strong poles, covered and lined with bark, and large 
enough to accommodate, after the native fashion, a fam- 
ily of ten to twenty persons. Several fields of maize, of 
perhaps twenty acres each, constituted the cultivation. 
These were ploughed and planted with regularity, show- 
ing a good degree of agricultural improvement. 

That dire disease, small-pox, unknown to the Indians 
before the coming of the whites, and, next to " fire 
water,** their most fatal gift, had made cruel havoc 
among this band, and nearly annihilated it. It was 
said, that out of five or six hundred, who composed the 
band, not more than a third were left. 


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Being desirous to obtain a canoe belonging to the 
chief, I went, late in the evening, with an interpreter, 
to his lodge. This old chief was named Ba-mos-^ya 
(Dried-in-the-Sun), and was called by the whites the 
" pox-marked chief.'* We sat with him an hour, though 
he and his family had gone to rest some time before. He 
seemed glad of the interruption, for the desolation of 
his band had made the old man lonely. Two of his 
three wives had died, and his lodge — about sixteen feet 
square — was occupied by him, with his remaining wife, 
and a large family of children. He sat upon the bed in 
his blanket, naked to the waist, and talked with much 
energy on the subject nearest his heart for half an 
hour, during which we did not interrupt him. He told 
how a strong disease had attacked his little band, until 
one by one they dropped away, and dying families left 
their dead unburied, or covered with sand upon the 

What greatly increased their distress was the refusal 
of the Government agents to assist them. Through fear 
of the disease, they deserted the band in its utmost 
need, and when wholly unable to hunt, withholding the 
supplies so much needed, and which were due them by 
treaties, permitting the band to perish of sickness and 
starvation. To the shame of humanity, it is to be feared 
that this charge was too true. 

This chief was not called to the treaty recently con- 
eluded at Detroit, where the lands of his tribe had been 
ceded away, and he was much dissatisfied in conse- 
quence, he and his band refusing to remove. 

Altogether, this is the best-looking tribe I have seen 
in Michigan. Some of the girls have regular features, 
that even among white beauties would be esteemed 




handsome. Among these was a young granddaughter 
of olid Bamoseya, a beautiful half-breed, with brilliant 
black eyes. Notwithstanding the pleasing poetic fic- 
tions of poets and painters, it is rare to find, among any 
of the Indian tribes of this region, the forms and feat- 
ures which, according to our ideas, constitute beauty. 

Possibly the life of labor to which the squaws are sub- 
jected has helped to entail upon them some organic 
defects. In general the men have much the. finest forms. 
Among the Chippewas, as well as the Pottawatomies 
and Ottawas, I have been struck with the many agile, 
lithe and manly figures. 

The chief of a small band of Pottawatomies, whom I 
saw in Branch County, named Sauquoit, was a man of 
tall and elegant stature, and of an open, intelligent coun- 
tenance. His dress, like that of most of his tribe, con- 
sisted of a few tattered garments of the white man, with 
cloth leggins, having a broad fringe at the sides, after 
the Indian fashion, and fitted tight to the limb. 

There is in the Indian organization more of agility and 
grace than of strength. Of this I witnessed an instance 
among some young Ottawas and the young men of my 
party of whites. In a wrestling match the Indians were 
easily thrown, until they resorted to the stratagem of 
entirely stripping and greasing their bodies. In swift- 
ness of foot they were more than a match for our men, 
though the wind and endurance of the latter were 

The love of the Indians for the ** fire-water," and the 
ease with which they are enabled to procure it, through 
the cupidity of the whites, have ever proved one of the 
great obstacles to their civilization. The State and gen- 
eral governments have frequently passed laws to prevent 


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1 84 


the sale -of ardent spirits to the Indians, and many at- 
tempts have been made to enforce them, but in this, as 
in most other cases, self-interest usually gets the better 
of good resolutions. 

An anecdote in point was related to me by a mer- 
chant in one of our interior villages. At the time of 
my story he was a trader with the Indians, having his 
store at Jackson, from which, after the custom of the 
traders, he would send out runners to intercept the na- 
tives on their trail, and toll them to his store. *.* The sale 
of spirituous liquors was contrary to law, yet no one,'* 

said Mr. D- , " could deal with those thirsty souls, 

without supplying their taste for the dram. If they 
could not obtain it here, they would mount horses and go 
to Detroit for their trade, where whiskey could be got." 
So, when a trade was concluded, it was his custom to lock 
doors, and treat his customers to their favorite beverage, 
taking care that none should be seen drunk within vil- 
lage limits. 

" There were only about twenty whites,** said he, " with 
whom I traded, out of the whole county, but they were 
mostly * church members,* and indignant at the mer- 
chants* reported dealing of spirits to the Indians.*' They 
assembled a county meeting on the subject, at which Mr. 

D was called to account. The trader, being thus 

summoned, appeared and made a speech in his vindica- 
tion. He represented to the meeting, that, as the giving 
of liquors to the Indians was unlawful, he had never ac- 
knowledged, nor would he, that he had ever furnished it 
to them. "But," said he, "you very well know the im- 
possibility of effecting a trade unless liquor comes from 
some quarter, and that if it is not forthcoming they will 
invariably trade elsewhere. It is therefore my opinion 


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that somebody does furnish it, in order that their trade 
may be secured to us.*' 

Whereupon an influential citizen arose, and moved 

that Mr. D be required to supply the Indians with 

as much liquor as he thinks necessary to retain their trade. 
The question being called for, notwithstanding so ludi- 
crous an appeal, and so entirely at variance with the ob- 
ject of the meeting, after much awkward objection, was 
put to the county, and carried by acclamation ! 

Of the labors of the early Jesuit missionaries, among 
the Indians, in the far wildernesses of this region, few 
monuments remain. But that the results have, in some 
instances, been lasting, we have at least one interesting 

In the summer of 1838 I had the pleasure of visiting 
several villages of Ottawas, about L'Arbre Croche and 
Traverse Bays, of Lake Michigan. They had here 
formed several agricultural communities, with a total 
population of more than one thousand souls. All around 
was uninhabited wilderness. 

They dwelt in cabins built of logs, twenty to twenty- 
five feet square, and thatched on roof and walls with 
cedar bark, solidly constructed and comfortable. 

The principal village, of about fifty cabins, was arranged 
in a regular street, sixty feet wide, the houses opposite 
each other, and from fifty to one hundred feet apart, and 
most of them had private yards, filled with currant 
bushes, and other shrubbery. 

The internal appearance was equally neat. There 
were several apartments, and the walls were adorned 
with highly-colored pictures. 

Upon the height, above the village, stood the Mission 


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Church, a building of considerable size, with the dwell- 
ing of the priest adjoining, and in front a large white 

The farm, on the upland, was worked in common, and 
fine crops of Indian corn and potatoes were growing. 

The dress of these Indian communists consisted of a 
mixture of the white and Indian costumes; for with 
the savage the taste for leggins, and ornamental work 
in the native style, never yields to his progress in civil- 

This simple community was still far from any settle- 
ment of the white man, and it seemed as if here at least 
the first seeds of Christianity, planted by the zealous 
labors of the Jesuit fathers, among these children of the 
forest, had blossomed into a little flower of civilization 
and borne fruit. 

It is probably two centuries since this germ was planted. 
More than a century ago fehe community was visited by 
the English trader, Alexander Henry (1761), and I 
quote his brief account, as showing how firmly rooted 
it then was. 

"At the entrance of Lake Michigan, and at about 
twenty miles to the west of Fort Michilimackinaw, is the 
village of L*Arbre Croche, inhabited by a band of Otta- 
was, boasting of two hundred and fifty fighting men. 
This is the seat of the Jesuit mission of St. Ignace de 
Michilimackinac, and the people are partly baptized and 
partly not. The missionary resides on a farm attached 
to the mission, and situated between the village and the 
fort, both of which are under his care. The Ottawas of 
L'Arbre Croche, who, when compared with the Chippe- 
was, appear to be much advanced in civilization, grow 


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maize for the market of Michilimackinac, where this com- 
modity is depended upon for provisioning the canoes/* ^ 

Some young men from this tribe, as well as the Chip- 
pewas, were sent to schools in the States, and received 
a liberal education. They were not behind white schol- 
ars in aptitude or capacity. I was acquainted with one 
who adopted the law for his profession, establishing him- 
self, I believe, at Mackinac ; and, although I am unable 
to aver that he was eminent as a lawyer, I do know that 
few surpassed him in refined eloquence. 

Some of these educated Indians were unable to resist 
the charms with which the greenwood had impressed 
their youthful imaginations, and, after some years of trial, 
abandoned their civilization, and returned to the wild 
life of their ancestors. 


I would here say a few words in regard to the policy 
pursued by the United States Government towards the 
Indians. The difficulties in the way of doing them exact 
justice are very apparent. So little form of government 
exists among them ; so limited, uncertain, and often fee- 
ble, is the authority of the chiefs, that the binding force 
of a treaty signed by those calling themselves such, is 
open to much doubt. It is not to be wondered at that 
these are often repudiated by large portions of tribes, 
which are supposed to be held by their obligations, and 

* This once isolated Indian mission and flourishing settlement of Otta- 
was is now (188.6) usurped by a white man's village — a well-frequented 
watering-place — where tasteful cottages are embowered amid the trees. 
Though the Catholic mission remains, most of the Indians have been re- 
moved to a " Reservation " ; their communistic community broken up, 
and the farm abandoned to modern agriculture. 


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that, in fact, treaties are a very imperfect expression of 
the will of a people who recognize no law which is op- 
posed to the independent judgment and consent of indi- 

Nor is it easy to ascertain the exact limits of Indian 
claims to title or occupancy, in the conflicting preten- 
sions of different tribes. 

But however ill defined these rights may be, the 
Indian is as jealous of any encroachment upon them, as 
civilized man is of any infringement of his claims. 

Moreover, he sees himself continually being deprived 
of them. He sees mile after mile of territory, which 
was once the recognized land of his ancestors, and the 
hunting-grounds of his youth, in the remorseless grasp of 
another and hated race ; even the graves of his fathers — 
objects of veneration amounting to superstition — swept 
from him. He sees whole tribes of his kindred under- 
going a gradual extinction, — a warning of his own fate. 
His means of subsistence are reduced ; the provisions 
and payments promised by treaty stipulations, and 
upon which he relied for alleviation of his growing 
wants, are fraudulently withheld, or misapplied. He 
knows no one to whom he can apply for redress, and his 
appeals, or claims to sympathy, are treated with con- 
tempt by the increasing bands of hardy settlers that are 
forming a cordon around his narrow possessions. 

Can we wonder that he is often driven, in his igno- 
rance and exasperation, to desperate methods of redress ; 
to secret and violent means of retaliation? That con- 
flicts occur between individuals subjected to these 
grievances, enhanced by the irregular advances of the 
whites and the settlers on the frontiers, in which both 
parties are aggressors? That tribes band together in 


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the vain effort to check the invasion, and to regain their 
ancient liberties ? 

History records with admiration the deeds of a Tell, a 
Leonidas, a Washington, in shaking off the yoke which 
tyranny had imposed upon a people. Shall we regard as 
less dignified, just and heroic, the efforts of a Philip, a 
Pontiac, and a Tecumseh, to restore to their people 
their anci^ent freedom ? Shall we withhold our sympathy, 
because a wild and ignorant race are stimulated to occa- 
sional savage barbarities ? 

I am not one of those who see in the Indian only the 
being he has been painted by poetic minds. There is a 
halo of romantic light which rests upon his name and 
story, and lingers about his retreating form. It gives a 
glow to the colors with which the philanthropist and 
the poet love to illuminate his few hardy virtues, and 
invests them with many noble and heroic qualities. 

The wildness and solitude of his abode; his simple 
and hospitable life; the expressive melody of his lan- 
guage*; above all, the traditionary tales and stories of 
wild wanderings and savage feats, clothed with the im- 
agery of imaginative and enthusiastic minds, and with 
the illusions of poetry, have served to convey many 
erroneous impressions. It is soothing to human pride to 
dwell upon uncultivated virtues, and to picture human- 
ity clothed in so fair a garb by the hand of nature. 

But, in truth, the virtues of the Indian are few and 
simple ; his failings such as are little in accord with the 
standard of civilization. 

The Indian in a state of nature is cruel and vindictive. 
He delights in war. His art is to take advantage of his 
adversary, by every species of deceit ; to pursue him 
with relentless hatred ; to waylay, and to murder him in 


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the dead of night ; exposing his own person as little as 
possible in open combat ; and, if his victim be cap- 
tured, to put an end to his miserable existence by lin- 
gering tortures. Revenge is a virtue to the savage mind. 
Even his generosity is often the offering of one who 
has little to give, and expects much in return. 

Among them, woman — the pride of civilized life — is 
a drudge and a slave. At war with each other, the 
tribes have, even among themselves, little of fixed and 
recognize'd title to the lands they occupy. They wander 
like ships upon a desert ocean, leaving scarcely the trace 
of passing humanity ; their meetings are more often the 
interchange of the war-whoop and the scalping-knife 
than the friendly greetings of brethren. 

On the other hand, the superiority of man in his civil- 
ized state over the savage seems almost immeasurable. 
His physical strength and powers of endurance are in- 
creased, his intellectual faculties are more acute, and 
his capacity for advancement in the arts of life are far 
beyond that of the savage. 

He is also a land worker. The territory which is 
required for the support of a single hunter will maintain 
a thousand agriculturists. He builds cities, and forms 
constituted governments. 

His wants become commensurate with his enlarged 
capacities. Civilization has given him a far-reaching 
spirit of enterprise, which demands and must occupy a 
more extended field of operation. Confined to the nar- 
row limits of primitive life, forbidden to exercise sover- 
eignty beyond the little sphere of immediate necessity, 
if conflicting with savage claims, he must be doomed 
forever to repress those powers which, if left free to 
expand, would turn solitudes into cities, and convert the 


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earth itself, and the ocean, into the magnificent domain 
of mind. No sublime applications of science would 
open the treasures locked up in the earth ; the arts and 
the use of metals would be unknown ; the laws of matter, 
now subservient to our use, would be mysteries ; no 
commerce would whiten the sea, and carry from peo- 
ple to people, from clime to clime, the productions of 
far distant nations, and the discoveries of intellectual 
man. The command of Jehovah himself, to ** multiply 
and replenish the earth, and subdue it,** would be a dead 
letter on the Statute Book of Deity ! 

Such is the course of reasoning which has led the 
wisest of American statesmen, and the ablest of her jur- 
ists, to recognize in the Indian tribes — thinly scattered 
over an immense extent of territory — only a very qual- 
ified title to the soil. They hold, that to the civilized 
race belongs the right to extinguish the Indian title and 
occupancy, by purchase, or even by conquest ; that the 
very existence of political societies involves permanent 
rights of property, and of sovereignty, over the soil, as 
against the feebly held and uncertain tenure of the sav- 
age ; and that the peculiar character and habits of the 
Indian nations render them incapable of sustaining any 
other relations with the whites than that of dependence 
and pupilage. 

Yet it is easy for the strong to make laws over the 
weak. To the credit of a Christian nation, the right 
thus laid down has been exercised by the United States 
to a very qualified extent. It has been their policy to 
treat the Indians as free and independent tribes, compe- 
tent to act in a national character, and, within their own 
territories, owing no allegiance to the municipal laws of 
the whites. They have recognized the various tribes as 


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treaty-making powers, and in the purchase of their 
lands it has been the aim to give just and fair equiva- 

An omniscient and wise providence has placed in our 
hands the fate of that unfortunate race.- The history of 
the past tells in unmistakable language what is to be 
the final consummation : that the Indian is destined to 
fade before the Anglo-Saxon, until the now wild and 
warring tribes west of the Mississippi become as those 
who. peopled the land east of that once mighty barrier, 
and who have perished before our eyes. 

If such is to be their fate, before that event occurs 
we have our duty to perform. We can at least alleviate 
their downfall. We can exercise that justice which is 
the best prerogative of power. 

The plan of collecting the scattered tribes into 
reserves, from which the evil influence of the whites 
shall be, as far as practicable, excluded, was no doubt 
the wisest that our fathers were able to devise. But the 
humanity of the Government has not controlled the 
action of individuals. Were these equally interested 
with the Government in carrying out its paternal meas- 
ures, the success of the plan, in the increased happiness 
and prolonged existence of those it aims to protect, 
might be secured. But there are never wanting unprin- 
cipled and interested men, who excite evil passions, 
encourage rebellions, overreach in bargains, and rob the 
pensioners of their annual stipends. Nor can the Gov- 
ernment always prevent iniquity in its agents, who have 
frequently and outrageously abused their trusts. 

The system hitherto pursued, of Indian agencies, — 
mere political appointments, with whom the large oppor- 


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tunities for speculation and gain are the main induce- 
ment, — is most objectionable. 

In many cases — eventually, in all — ^the duties of these 
agents may be more safely and wisely intrusted to com- 
missioners from the tribes; — to men selected by them- 
selves^ of their own race, having education, authority, 
and the confidence of the red men. This would, at least, 
lift from us, to great extent, the responsibility of unfair 
dealing. It would bring the half-civilized tribes into 
nearer and more direct relationship to our Government. 
It would make their dependence less felt, and develop 
their capacity for self-government. 

Nor has Congress shown that regard for the faith of the 
nation, pledged in the numerous Indian treaties, which 
is consistent with the good-will that originally inspired 
them. How many wars might have been avoided but 
for the neglect of Congress to pass the called for appro- 
priations, and for the niggardly and dishonest withhold- 
ing of supplies that were part of the contract. 

Admitting that these wars have been provoked chiefly 
through the aggressions of white settlers, desperadoes 
and thieves, still how many a murderous outbreak would 
have been prevented had these unlawful acts been fol- 
lowed by prompt redress on the part of the Government. 
The law's delay, the false representations of interested 
parties, the insufficiency of our army, the race-hatred, 
and murders unavenged by the proper authorities, have 
often left the Indians no redress save a resort to their 
own code of vengeance. 

And when treaties have been broken by the unauthor- 
ized acts of our own people what has the Government 
done ? Instead of avenging the wrong, it has been but 
too ready to make new treaties, followed usually by 


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removal to another reservation, only to be again broken 
in upon, and succeeded by another new settlement, 
always in favor of the whites, and in disregard of the 
interests of the weaker party. 

There are scattered among us many Indian commu- 
nities which have adopted an agricultural life, and the 
dress and mode of living of the whites. Many exam- 
ples show that the Indian has more capacity and will for 
these influences than it is usual to credit to him. They 
encourage the belief that he is not averse to work, and 
to civilized requirements, if only sufficient incentive be 
set before him, and he can have assurance that his newly 
acquired privileges will be confirmed to him. But, 
driven from one settled home to another and unknown 
one at the caprice of his white neighbors, who crowd 
upon and covet his lands ; subjected to the yielding im- 
policy of the Government ; knowing how little depend- 
ence can be placed upon reiterated promises made to 
him in solemn treaties, and feeling that nothing is stable 
in his situation, is it strange that his advance in civiliza- 
tion is slow ? , Is it not rather strange that he has accom- 
plished so much ? 

The experiment is yet almost untried of what may be 
accomplished by bringing this child of the forest under 
the operation of our laws, and endowing him with all the 
rights and privileges of citizenship. This will not be the 
work of a year, or of many years. Barbarian instincts 
cannot be subdued in a generation. There will be many 
failures, but the habit will be acquired, gradually but 
surely. Tribal systems will give place to forms of gov- 
ernment better suited to the present condition of the 
tribes and to their future. 

It is gratifying to know that the guaranteed rights of 


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the Indians are being more respected by those into 
whose hands are devolved the execution of the laws, and 
that the chief executive power is actively exerted in 
preventing individual encroachments. As a people, we 
are awaking to a clear sense of our duty. The Board 
of Indian Commissioners is faithfully urging upon Con- 
gress the fulfilment of obligations, and a more wise legis- 
lation. Their last report states, that the year 1884 has 
been for all the Indians one of peace and quiet ; that 
there have been no outbreaks, no need of a " Peace 
Commission," but a year of steady progress in industry, 
in education, in material prosperity and in civilized 

Now let us take advantage of this better appreciation 
to do our whole duty. It seems to me that the wisdom 
of experience requires that we should abolish the old 
treaty system, which has so often proved a failure. 
Nevertheless, obligations already incurred should be 
sacredly fulfilled. If modification be desirable, it should 
be made in accordance with the wishes of the weaker 
party, not of those most clamorous for it. 

As far and as fast as possible, and with their full con- 
nivance, the Indians should be brought into the same 
relations with the Government as ourselves, where tribes 
are so far advanced as to demand it. Land should be 
allotted to them in severalty rather than in common, 
so that no individual can be deprived of his land by 
unjust or mistaken action on the part of chiefs, whose 
authority is always doubtful, and of uncertain value. 
This plan has succeeded well where the people are fitted 
for it. 

The tribes on the reservations should be induced to 
form communities, constituted, as nearly as may be. 


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after our township, county and state governments. 
Encourage settled habits of cultivation of the soil, and 
raising of cattle. Give all needed facilities for educa- 
tion, and for forming industrial and civilized habits. 
Especially afford to the willing and industrious oppor- 
tunity to acquire homesteads, securing to them such a 
title to the land they occupy that no power but their 
own can deprive them of it. As one tribe after another 
becomes prepared for it, admit them to the rights of 
citizenship, on a full equality in every respect with those 
who now enjoy its benefits. 

But let the problem be worked out by the Indians 
themselves. Let citizenship be offered as a boon, to 
those only who are fitted for it and desire it. To this 
end instructions in the public schools, where young 
Indians are taught, should aim to educate teachers and 
to prepare the pupils — who are apt scholars — to under- 
stand the rights and duties of citizens. 

I will not pretend to lay down the forms of law under 
which these results are to be attained, nor to predict the 
time when all will be accomplished. These must de- 
pend upon trial and experience. But let the end be 
ever held in view, and let the full, prompt and active 
protection of the law be afforded against whoever and 
whatever seeks to obstruct the laws, and to divert the 
nation from its just course. 

Under wise regulations these advantages might be 
extended to all the tribes who come within our present 
agency system. Let them form a necessary part of that 
system. And instead of treating the Indian as a savage 
beast, to be kept under our civil and military control, 
lest he should break away and tear our people to pieces, 
^ Jet--our people be taught to recognize him as having 


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common privileges with ourselves ; to direct his energies 
into the channels of law and of good government ; to 
wean him, by encouragement and example, from habits 
of barbarism to industricd occupations. 

It may be considered as certain, that the old system 
will not avail to save the perishing objects of its care 
from future misery and final extinction. 

The wave of population has continued to flow west- 
ward, unchecked by the great Mississippi, and the large 
Indian reservations — already coveted and surrounded — 
are even now being broken in upon by the same insati- 
able race that has driven their occupants from the 
homes of their fathers, on the rivers which flow into the 

Already, far beyond these ** Indian Territories,'* Saxon 
energies have carried the arts of civilization and its ever 
unsatisfied demands along the shores of the Pacific, and 
into the strongholds of the Rocky Mountains. Even in 
the distant homes of the desert are occurring the same 
conflict of interests, with the same results which have 
attended our meetings and our progress hitherto. 

When the last warring tribes shall have submitted to 
treaties, and been accorded the protection of territory 
set apart and solemnly guaranteed to their exclusive use, 
what will be in the end but the old story, — the influence 
of bad whites ; encroachments — under various pretences, 
and with fair show — upon their lines and their privileges ; 
robbery (under another name), by degrees, of their weak 
possessions ; until they are exposed to all the evils from 
which they have fled. 

It may be the inscrutable plan of Providence that this 
primitive race shall become extinct, and that civilized 
man, with his cultivated powers and larger means for 


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carrying out the designs of the Creator in planting here 
a mighty nation, shall supply his place. 

It is sad to think that, in a few years, will have utterly 
perished from the face of this goodly land every vestige 
of its former proprietors. Like the wild beasts which 
they hunted, they, too, pass from sight and from mem- 
ory, leaving no memorials, except in the names which 
their poetic language has bestowed upon the natural 
features of their country. Powerful nations of antiquity 
have been overwhelmed in the desolating march of bar- 
barous hordes, but the Indian has been swept by the ad- 
vancing wave of civilization. No mighty monumental 
ruin, withstanding the desolations of time, and mantling 
with verdure in its decay, bears his history and his deeds 
to a future age. No customs or laws, which he origi- 
nated, mingle the existence of the conquerors with the 
conquered. A few mounds of earth alone remain, evi- 
dence of his former being ; and these the ploughshare will 
soon level with the surrounding fields. 

Mindful of the mutability of fortune which may be in 
store for us, their now powerful successors, let us perform 
towards this perishing people the whole duty which our 
civilization and our Christianity require. 

And if. finally, nothing can avert the threatened doom, 
but, like that now forgotten people whom their own has 
superseded, they also are destined to be extinguished ; if, 
one by one, each remaining tribe must undergo the fate 
of the Delaware and the Mohegan ; when some Uncas of 
the vanished race shall stand upon the lonely burial 
mound of his forefathers, to take his last survey of their 
once happy home, let him carry no reproach to the 
land of spirits, that anything has been neglected by us, 
consistent with the welfare of his race, or the preserva- 
tion of our national honor. 


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f PART I. 



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. . . . " Are they here— 
The dead of other days ? — 

.... Let the mighty mounds 
That overlook the rivers, or that rise 
In the dim forest, crowded with old oaks, 
Answer. A race, that long has passed away, 
Built them ; — ^a disciplined and populous race 
Heap*d, with long toil, the earth, while yet the Greek 
Was hewing the Pentelicus to forms 
Of sjrmmetry, and rearing on its rock 
The glittering Parthenon. These ample fields 
Nourished their harvests." 



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Part I. — General Character and Distribution of 
THE Works. 

FEW works of a pre-historic people comparable to 
those found in Ohio, and elsewhere to the south- 
ward, occur in Michigan. 

Some scattered earthworks are found, of whose origin 
and uses the tribes of Indians living here at the first ad- 
vent of the white man had no knowledge. They are of 
far less extent than those of Ohio, and indicate a people 
of different customs. 

Circular earthworks occur here and there, but they are 
of small size, and referable to a different purpose from 
the large circle-mounds of the Ohio. There are no trun- 
cated mounds, such as those found further south, and 
supposed to have constituted foundations or terraces for 
the dwellings of chiefs, or for religious edifices. No 
long earth-built ways, connecting the larger circles or 
squares, occur in Michigan. Nor are there any defen- 
sive works on so grand a scale as those in the Ohio 

A few earth-mounds occur, some of which may be re- 
ferred to a defensive purpose. 

One of these is found — or was found, for the desolating 
plough has reigned rampant over it for the last thirty 
years — on the Clinton River, in Macomb County, and is 
thus described to me by Mr. J. E. Day, of Romeo. It lay 

20 1 


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between the north branch of Clinton River and a small . 
spring tributary, and was about twenty rods distant from 
either stream, and on a plateau elevated fifteen feet 
above. It consisted of a nearly circular embankment four 
to five feet high, and enclosed about three acres. The 
diameters were 350 and 400 feet respectively. On the 
outer side was a wide ditch. There were three openings 
or gateways, each twenty feet wide, and protected within 
by a mound so placed as to shut off from without all 
view of the interior. A small lake within the enclosure 
supplied water to the garrison. 

Between this " fort " and the smaller stream were a 
large number of tumuli, in an irregular cluster, each of 
which contained a single skeleton. A little below the 
junction of this stream with the Clinton was a very large 
tumulus, surrounded by seven smaller ones in a circle. 

In situation and general character this work bears con- 
siderable analogy to the defensive works of Northern 
Ohio. The embankment may have been crowned with 
palisades, and the interior mounds may have served for 
observation, as well as defence, to a village within the 
circle. A large amount of broken pottery and other 
relics found in the vicinity seems to indicate a once nu- 
merous population. Nothing is known which would in- 
dicate a religious purpose, analogous to the so-called 
" sacred enclosures *' of Ohio. In all the north-western 
portion of this county, extensive fields or gardens, in 
which the cultivation was in drills or rows, may still be 
distinctly traced. 

Near the mouth of this river occurs another similar 
work, and of apparently a like defensive character. 

Mr. Henry Little, in one of several papers on the 
Mounds, published in the Kalamazoo Telegraph in 1874, 

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mentions an ancient work in Gilead, Branch County, 
which may with some probability be classed as defensive. 

" It was an earth embankment, one end starting from 
the waters of a small lake, the other end coming around 
to the lake at a point considerably distant from the first. 
It enclosed an excellent spring of water." 

He also describes an earthwork of this kind, and much 
more extensive, at Three Rivers, in St. Joseph County. 
" The Rocky River from the north, and Portage Creek 
from the north-east, unite their waters with the St. 
Joseph, but a few rods distant from each other, forming 
a tract of land in the shape of the letter V. About a 
mile north of this junction was an artificial earth em- 
bankment, about six feet high, stretching across the 
plain, from Rocky River to the Portage.** This plain is 
elevated many feet above these streams, and with this 
triple defence a beleaguered army might here sustain 
itself with considerable confidence against the warfare 
of savage foes. 

This defensive work has a peculiar interest, from its 
vicinity to those remarkable evidences of ancient labor, 
skill and taste, denominated the "garden beds," of 
which a description is given elsewhere. 

Blois, in his Gazetteer, alludes to " forts of the square 
or rectangular kind,** one of which " is said to be one or 
two miles below Marshall, one in town of Prairie-Ronde, 
and several on the Kalamazoo.** It is to be regretted 
that no traces now remain of these structures. 

On the banks of the St. Joseph River I remember to 
have seen, in 1837, a circular embankment of unknown 
origin. It was of small size, and so well defined that I 
could not pass it unnoticed. My recollection, however, 
does not enable me to give any very definite description. 


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Mr. Little, in the papers above referred to, mentions 
an antique work of very unusual form. Describing a 
tumulus on Climax Prairie, he adds, " South of the mound 
and in the edge of the timber, on the highest part of a 
hill or eminence, there was an excavated ringy which 
formed the whole of a perfect circle, and enclosed one 
and a half acres. The excavated hollow was about one 
rod wide at the bottom and between 2 and 3 feet deep. 
When first discovered, forty years ago, it was overgrown 
with large forest trees.'* 

Circles of this kind are very rare. Some have been 
found in Ohio, and I remember seeing in Wisconsin an 
animal form made in intaglio^ instead of relief. 

The ring described by Mr. Little could not have had a 
military purpose, or pains would not have been taken to 
remove the earth, which, if thrown up as an embankment, 
would have assisted such an object. 

A circular embankment occurs at Springwells, just 
below Fort Wayne. Of this I shall give a detailed de- 
scription on a future page. 

Some of the works above alluded to have a similar 
character to those small earthworks found in the vicinity 
of Lake Erie, on its south side, and extending into New 
York, which have been surveyed and described by Col. 
Charles Whittlesey. These consist of embankments with 
outer ditches, and are built across the necks of the up- 
lands between ravines, thus aiding to render a small piece 
of land easily defended. Their purpose as works of 
defence cannot be mistaken. 

These are all isolated instances of comparatively small 
defensive works, unconnected with each other, or with 
any plan or system, like those series of forts which are 
found in Ohio and which serve for the protection of a 


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large district. It is probable they were temporary ref- 
uges, hastily erected against some sudden inroad. Pos- 
sibly they were the last refuge of an agricultural people, 
like those who made the garden beds. This great emer- 
gency may have arisen when those barbarous hordes, who 
occasioned the final destruction or dispersion of the 
Mound-Builders of Ohio, turned their victorious arms 
upon the northern race of peaceful cultivators. 

Of other kinds of relics of a past race Michigan has 
more abundant examples. 

Tumuli or burial mounds, single and grouped, are 
very common in all parts of the peninsula. Many of 
these were in use by the Indian tribes inhabiting the 
country at its discovery and settlement by the whites, 
and some continued to be used for their ancient purposes 
for a long time afterward. 

As I propose to describe with some particularity those 
which occur in the immediate vicinity of Detroit, I will 
content myself with alluding to a few only of special 
interest, elsewhere. 

By far the finest group of * mounds that has come to 
my knowledge occurs on the banks of Grand River, three 
miles south of Grand Rapids. They were still perfect 
when the writer had the satisfaction of seeing them in 


The largest of these mounds has a diameter of 100 
feet, and a height of 15 feet or more above the gen- 
eral surface. Close by are two others of nearly equal 
size, all very regular in shape and conical. They are in 
a line about 100 feet apart, and 500 feet from the river. 
Around them cluster seventeen smaller tumuli, without 
regular arrangement, and varying in height from eight 

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to two feet. All are within an area of two and a half 

This group occupies the first terrace, which is over- 
flowed in high water to the foot of the mounds. It lies 
in the shadow of the ancient, untrimmed forest, consist- 
ing principally of sugar maples. Trees were growing on 
the mounds of two to three feet diameter, and there 
were evidences of still older ones which have perished. 

Seven of these tumuli were opened during the year 
preceding my visit, by Captain Coffinbury and others, 
and among them one of the largest. This was found to 
be wholly composed of the richest portions of the sur- 
rounding alluvial soil, differing in this respect from the 
others, which were composed of the gravel of the uplands. 
No relics were disclosed, except a copper awl. Patches 
of ochreous earth were met with, a bushel in a place, as 
though dumped from a basket. The absence of skele- 
tons in this tumulus, and the red earth, together with 
ashes, mingled with comminuted bone, would imply that 
this mound was appropriated to such bodies only as were 

Of the smaller mounds, six were opened. In all skele- 
tons were found, generally one only in each, and all were 
so decayed that it was impossible to preserve them. 
They were of ordinary size^ except one, which is pro- 
nounced gigantic, the proportions " indicating a stature of 
seven feet.*' All were in a sitting posture, and faced to 
different points. 

With the bones were many relics, the lowest mound 
yielding the richest harvest. Besides the usual variety 
of stone arrow- and spear-heads, were several copper 
needles, and a copper axe, eight inches long by four 
wide, and one-fourth iitch thick, quite smooth and per- 


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feet ; several stone pipes and marine shells were also 
found. Four handsome pots constituted the most inter- 
esting discovery. These will be alluded to hereafter. 

The spot occupied by this interesting group of tumuli, 
with its silent surroundings, lovely in its seclusion and 
grand with its overshadowing foliage, impressed my mind 
strongly with the poetical character of that race, who 
combined with the savage life such a sympathetic love of 

While certain tribes of the red man in historic times 
are known to have made frequent use for intrusive burial 
of mounds which they found in the land, it is the general 
opinion that the era of their original fabrication belongs 
to a more remote past. We can certainly point to an 
exception in this State. 

On the beautiful prairie of White Pigeon, and near 
the village, I saw, many years ago, a tumulus of consid- 
erable size. It was found by the first whites who settled 
there in 1826, and tradition asserted that it enshrined the 
remains of a celebrated chief of the Pottawatomies who 
formerly occupied that part of the country, and who 
buried him there a century before the date of the white 
settlement. He was still held in such estimation that 
thousands of his tribe came annually to pay their tribute 
of respect at his grave, until the remnant were moved 
by the U. S. Government to Kansas, in 1841. 

A different mode of entombing their great men was 
practised by the Indians inhabiting Western Michigan, in 
the early part of this century. 

In 1837, I saw on the summit of a lofty bluff overlook- 
ing the river Kalamazoo, the grave of the renowned 
chief, Wacousta. He was placed in a sitting posture, and 
the body surrounded with a crib of logs, strongly put 


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together, and entirely above ground. No attempt had 
been made at raising an earth mound. The skeleton was 
entire and still partially enveloped in its integuments. 

Possibly this disposition may have been but tempa 
rary, with a view to removal of the bones, after the flesh 
had decomposed, to some general resting-place of the 

Among the mounds of the Mississippi Valley, and fur- 
ther south, are occasionally found some built of stones. 
An instance of a similar construction is reported to me 
by Mr. Day, of Romeo, associated with the ancient re- 
mains in Macomb County. He says : *' In several places 
in this vicinity were found mounds made of stones, nicely 
piled up to a height of four to five feet, like a hay-cock. 
They were entirely alone, and more than a mile distant 
from the group of earth-mounds elsewhere mentioned." 

One of these stone-mounds was opened forty years 
ago. " It was four feet in height and placed in a circular 
excavation of two feet depth by four feet diameter. 
The stones were nicely placed, and had been preserved 
in shape by a tree which grew on the summit, and threw 
its roots over the sides of the pile. The stones being re- 
moved, portions of a^human skeleton were exhumed." 

Piles of stone are mentioned by Mr. Schoolcraft as ex- 
isting on the Island of Mackinac, and supposed by him 
to have been gathered by the ancient race for the pur- 
pose of clearing the land for cultivation. But, although 
ancient fields exist near, Mr. Day is certain that the stone 
piles mentioned by him were for a different purpose, 
and the discovery of the skeleton serves to confirm his 
opinion. My own theory is, that the stones were heaped 
about the body for protection, until the time should ar- 


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rive for a general inhumation or ^* Feast of the dead/* — 
a custom which I shall notice presently. 

The earth-tumuli in Michigan are nearly always found 
in some picturesque situation, on or near the banks of the 
larger streams, often on some promontory that com- 
manded a lengthened prospect of the Indian*s natural 
highway, and which was probably his favorite resort 
while living. But these places know him no more ; his 
people have long ago departed ; his history is lost to 
tradition, and even his tomb tells but an uncertain story 
of his former being. 

" Perhaps on banks of many a stream, 
Sloping beneath the day's warm beam, 
Tribes may have lived from sire to son, 
And down through generations run, 
Lapng their bones within the mound 
Where all their gathered sires were found, 

And yet the spot no sign disclose, — 
Save this rude mound, — that ever there 
The hum of men had filled the air, 

And broke through Nature's wild repose." 

These lines from " Ontwa,** a poem by our distin- 
guished townsman, the late Col. Henry Whiting, well 
illustrates the desolation which has fallen upon the 
race, whose sole monuments are mounds of earth. 

The tumuli are monuments to the dead as well as 
graves. It is almost certain that one or more human 
skeletons will be found entombed, unless the bones of the 
occupants have perished through time, or from crema- 
tion. Original burials seem to have been made at or be- 
low the natural surface, and the bodies are found both in 
horizontal and sitting postures, and little regard seems to 
have been paid to the direction in which the face is 
turned. So unscientific has been the usual mode of un- 


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earthing these tombs, that the information they convey- 
to us of the character of the ancient occupants, by crani- 
um and other measurements, is far less definite and cer 
tain than could be desired. Amid the diversity of 
statement as to reported and actual finds, I think the 
conclusion may be drawn, so far as relates to the aborig- 
inal Wolverines, that they closely resembled the historic 
races ; although several very prognathous skulls and the 
" flattest tibia on record," found by Mr. H. Gillman in 
the mounds at Springwells, might seem to refer them 
to a lower type. 

When mounds are opened in most cases, it is impos- 
sible to determine from the reports whether the skeletons 
found belong to original or intrusive burials. According 
to some accounts, the skeletons indicate a race of very 
inferior size ; according to others, they show a race of 
giants. The elasticity of these ancient relics, to suit the 
zeal of the narrator, is truly wonderful. On one occasion 
I accompanied an old pioneer and worthy Judge to visit 
several mounds in Western Michigan. My guide gravely 
informed me that, twenty years before, he had dug from 
one of these mounds a skeleton which, when laid out 
upon the turf, measured eleven feet, eight and three- 
quarter inches, and the skull of which fitted entirely over 
the judicial head ! The Cardiff Giant was a few inches 
longer than this, but as he was entirely of gypsum it was 
quite easy to fabricate any proportions which the gulli- 
bility of the public could swallow. 

While .the Michigan mounds contain the usual com- 
plement of stone axes, arrow-heads and spear-points, with 
knives and other implements of chert, it is a little singu- 
lar that so few tools of copper have been found. Finds 
of this kind in Wisconsin have far exceeded those from 


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our soils, and this would seem to indicate less acquaint- 
ance with the copper quarries of Lake Superior, on the 
part of the ancient inhabitants of our peninsula, than 
among the dwellers west of Lake Michigan. In connec- 
tion with the copper axe mentioned as among the "finds 
in the mounds at Grand Rapids, was some substance 
having the appearance of cloth, but too much decayed 
for preservation. Several copper axes from mounds in 
Iowa were found wrapped in a similar covering, which 
Dr. Farquharson pronounces to be cloth. Possibly a 
microscopic examination may prove that the Grand 
Rapids tool was similarly encased, showing both advance 
in the art of weaving and some especial reverence or 
consideration for the metal implement. 

Among the relics found in the Grand Rapids mounds 
— and by no means uncommon in other tumuli — are 
marine shells. Some of these must have come from the 
Atlantic or the Gulf, while one is pronounced by Prof. 
Strong to be from the Pacific. They are interesting as 
showing the extended intercourse, and probably system 
of barter and exchange, practised by the unknown peo- 
ples. The Pacific coast shells had evidently served the 
purpose of vessels, the whorls being cut out and holes 
made for hanging. Shells similarly prepared were in use 
by the Southern Indians in the time of De Soto, for 
drinking-cups, as horns were used by our Saxon ances- 

In pottery our mounds are quite rich. Some of the 
pots are at least fully equal to those of the bronze period 
in Europe. The four pots mentioned as disinterred at 
Grand Rapids were of very regular form ; one had a rim 
around the neck, from which the vessel, after a slight 
curve inwards, swelled into a bowl of uniform bulge. 


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The other three differed in this, that the bowl — round 
bottomed in all — was divided into four equal bulges. 
These were made more sharply protuberant by a smooth 
band, an inch wide, surrounding. each, very accurately 
modelled and deeply impressed. On each side were orna- 
ments of similar design. A smooth band encircled the 
neck, and the rim was adorned with cross-lines or hatch- 
ing. The surface otherwise was covered with small 
indentations, the whole effect being quite tasteful. 

Among the finds in Macomb County was a dish of an 
unusual size and form, and entire. It resembled the 
smaller half end of an egg-shell, and had a capacity of 
twelve to fifteen gallons. It was ornamented with figures 
of various kinds. Unfortunately this unique vase, on ex- 
posure, crumbled to pieces. 

The pots found by Blois in the mound opened by him 
at Springwells in 1839 ^^ere generally too much broken to 
determine their shapes. They appeared to be in the 
form of a half egg, abruptly contracted toward the 
mouth, with a flaring brim, and of the capacity of one 
or two gallons. They were smooth on the inside but 
marked on the exterior with various fantastic figures. 

By the side of each of the numerous skeletons found 
in what is known as the Carsten Mound, Springwells, 
lay a pot or urn, of which three only were obtained en- 
tire. Two of these were uncommonly fine specimens, 
in good preservation, and about a foot in height. The 
neck was about five inches wide, with a collar, below the 
rim, of two inches breadth. Below this the body 
swelled into a graceful curve, rounded at the base into a 
gourd form. The composition was clay, largely mixed 
with pounded stone, which contained much mica, and 
on the inside was black throughout. On the exterior 


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was a thin coating of. reddish clay, quite distinct from 
the remainder. The fineness of the texture, combined 
with great lightness, was admirable. These vases were 
purchased by Mr. Gillman, and presented to the Archae- 
ological Museum at Cambridge, Mass. 

The above describes but a few specimens of the many 
pots, found usually in fragments, in the mounds at 
Springwells and elsewhere. The composition and gen- 
eral character are much the same. 

The art of the potter is so ancient and universal, and 
the character and forms of the utensils made of baked 
clay are so important, in a determination of the advance 
in culture of the people by whom they were fabricated, 
that more interest attaches to the remains of a perished 
race which show the state of the ceramic art among 
them, than to any other of the ordinary relics. The 
specimens from the Michigan mounds show a taste to 
appreciate, and an eye and hand capable of giving finish 
to articles of admirable form, symmetry and lightness, 
scarcely less perfect than if constructed on a potter's 

Straight or zigzag lines occur on the coarsest speci- 
mens, and may betoken the first advance from the rud- 
est savage ideas. But curved forms and figures are 
more pleasing to the cultivated eye, and imply a degree 
of aesthetic advancement. By some process differing 
from and less effective than the modern, an imperfect 
glazing was obtained, and the' inner surfaces are often 
quite smooth and fine. 

It is possible, though it seems hardly probable, that 
these pots were an importation from the South, the Indi- 
ans of the Southern States, ancient and modern, being 
noted for the excellence and variety of their pottery. 


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That country furnished all the material desired, — colored 
clays, sea-shells, and micaceous rocks. Old kilns have 
been found in Georgia, and Adair suggests that the 
black color was owing to the smoke of the pitch pine 
used in the fires. The fact that in the better kinds of 
pottery found in the Northern mounds exactly the same 
materials combine, and the general resemblance of the 
ornamentation, may therefore warrant the conclusion 
that they were importations. This supposition, while it 
deprives the Northern Mound-Builders of the credit due 
to such skilful artisans, shows, at least, that the Northern 
peoples had the good taste to appreciate these beautiful 
and useful articles, and it conveys an enlarged idea of the 
extent of the traffic which existed in these ancient times, 
between the widely separated portions of the continent. 
The sea-shells tell the same story, and it is known that, 
even in modern times, the manufacture of stone imple- 
ments, arrow-points, etc., was confined to a few skilled 
persons, and that such articles were transported all over 
the country, for purpose of sale and barter. 



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Part II.— Indian Antiquities at Springwells. 

DURING the early French occupation of Detroit 
several Indian nations had settlements on the 
river banks, in the immediate vicinity. Conspicuous 
were the Hurons, Pottawatomies and Ottawas. They 
had villages strongly defended by stockades. They 
raised com and many vegetables, in large quantities. 

These incidents of history are recalled, because the 
fact of the considerable degree of settled and civilized 
habits attained by the Indian tribes of that day serves 
to throw some light upon those pre-historic antiquities 
whose origin and purposes are involved in so much ob- 

When I came to Detroit, in 1835, many evidences were 
still existent of the old aboriginal occupation. It was 
hardly possible to dig a cellar or level a hillock without 
throwing out some memorial of the red races. Mingled 
with their half-decayed bones were pipes and other uten- 
sils of stone, broken pottery, ornaments of silver and 
copper, wampum-beads of curious workmanship, the ar- 
row and tomahawk of the savage, and the figured cross 
of the missionary. 

In striking relationship with the emblems of savage 
warfare it was not uncommon to find, ** in one red burial 
blent," gun-barrels, sword-blades and cannon balls, me- 
mentos of the pale-faced warriors who strove on the 



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same battlefields. But arrow- and spear-head, and other 
memorials of the savage — rude as were the artificers — 
are perfect as in the day when they left the hands that 
made them, while the implements of the civilized race 
are nearly perished with rust. Thus does the remote 
past outlive the present. The old alone is ever new, 
fresh and imperishable ! 

To unearth a human skeleton was a common occur- 
rence. They were thrown out by spade and plough, and 
sometimes were seen protruding from the soil where the 
action of the waves had broken into the land. 

Of several skulls thus obtained and in my possession, 
one is deserving of particular mention, from the fact 
that it is stained through with permanent colors of red 
and green. It was the custom among some tribes to 
paint the face of the dead with his war-colors, but it is 
not possible that these pigments, laid upon the skin, 
should have penetrated the bone. A close examination 
reveals the presence of a belt of color, extending around 
the head, on a line with the forehead, and my conjecture 
is, that the stain is a deposit from the oxidation of a cop- 
per band, placed about the temples. The colors are 
strong and penetrate the entire bone. 

But more interesting memorials of a traditionary race 
were then extant. Allusion has already been made to 
tumuli at Springwells. A group of these existed on the 
river front of the Reeder farm. Just below the cop- 
per works the bank was very bold, and elevated about 
thirty feet above the water. On this bank were two 
mounds of conical form, of which one still existed at the 
time of my first visit, though injured by pilferers of 
Indian relics. It was then about ten feet in height, with 
a base diameter of forty feet. Large excavations were 


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in progress for gravel, and for clay used in the nrnriufact- 
ure of brick. These encroachments had destroyed one 
of the tumuli, and the whole have since disappeared. 

On and around this spot, for the extent of an acre, were 
thickly strewn bones and broken pottery, mingled with 
shell beads, stone knives and arrow-points. Several rods 
below was a smaller tumulus in a field, then covered with 
forest. It did not exceed six feet in height, and is still 
in good preservation, within the grounds of the United 
States reservation. 

In a "Gazetteer of the State of Michigan," published 
by John T. Blois, in 1839, ^^ given an account of the 
opening of one of these mounds two years before, which 
has much interest. 

The excavation was commenced on the top, and con- 
tinued a depth of four feet below the base. The soil, 
like that of the surrounding country, was sand, but it 
exhibited a mixture of decomposed animal matter, and 
occasional fragments of bone, some of which had 
evidently undergone calcination. The first few feet 
revealed many human skeletons, laid in a promiscuous 
manner, with deposits of the usual utensils and imple- 
ments, and with each were several pounds of a friable 
earth, resembling Spanish brown, but which colored red 
any object to which it was applied. About one foot 
from the base a stratum of charcoal, three inches thick, 
was penetrated. Immediately below this were found six 
human skeletons, lying in different parts of the mound. 
Each appeared to have been interred in a kneeling or 
sitting posture. The head was invariably turned toward 
the north ; the body a little inclined backwards, and the 
hands supporting an earthen vessel, in the attitude of a 


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person preparing to drink. Only the long bones and 
parts of the ribs and crania remained undecayed. 

"The general contour of the cranium was different 
from what is commonly noticed in the present Indian 
races. The mouth large and broad, the face wide and 
short ; the forehead exceedingly low and receding ; the 
skull unusually thick; the volume of the brain quite 
small. It was judged that the stature of none exceeded 
five feet six inches.^* 

Arrow-heads, pieces of hornstone and quartz, wrought 
and unwrought, of the rudest kind, but some forming 
very sharp cutting implements, were beside them. ** No 
metal was discovered, but the oxide or rust of iron was 
traced in the shape of a vessel, holding some two or 
three gallons, which proved it to have been of iron. By 
the side of one was found the remains of an uncommonly 
large, white marine shell.*' 

Great numbers of beads, in cylindrical form, and made 
of similar shell, were found. Some had been strung, 
others lay upon different parts of the body, and six were 
found enclosed in the mouth. The vessels were of the 
capacity of one or two gallons. 

The most remarkable feature of this find is the pres- 
ence of an oxide of iron, supposed to represent a vessel 
of that metal. It suggests a very difficult subject of in- 
quiry, for if these bodies really belonged to the pre-historic 
race, as every other circumstance would imply, then are 
we in conflict with the apparently well founded opinion 
that the art of smelting metals, either iron or copper, was 
unknown to that early race. Iron is very perishable, and 
would probably be wholly consumed by rust, long before 
human bones deposited at that remote era would have 
crumbled away. 


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In a letter from Mr. Blois written me in 1877, he con- 
firms his statement made in 1839, regarding the supposed 
iron vessel, by the recollection of Mr. H. Ransom, who 
was present. He says he had ** broken one side of the 
top before he noticed anything peculiar. He then 
scraped the sand from the hollow interior, but there was 
not sufficient strength in it to hold together." The ap- 
pearance, he adds, was certainly that of indurated oxide 
of iron, and yet the circumstance seems to him incredible. 

The story of the use of these mounds by the native 
tribes to a quite recent date, for intrusive burial, is very 

General Cass said that bodies were brought here from 
great distances, and were even preserved frozen during 
the winter, in order that they might be interred in these 
favorite mausolea. 

The Hon. B. F. H. Witherell, in a paper read in 1858 
before the Historical Society of Michigan, stated, that in 
his childhood he had seen the children of the wilderness 
deposit the remains of their departed friends in the bosom 
of one of these mounds. **They scooped out a shallow 
grave in the centre of the top, and, after covering the 
body with sand brought from the neighboring bank, the 
friends of the dead man went into the river and waded 
about in a zigzag course for some time, until the spirit 
had departed on its long journey. The object of this 
custom was, that the spirit might not be able to follow 
the tracks in the sand." According to a common super- 
stition, the soul of the deceased lingered for several days, 
unwilling to quit his earthly belongings, and probably 
this artifice was required to compel him to set forth on 
his spirit travel. As a ghost cannot cross water, the 
above plan was resorted to, in order that he might lose 


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sight of friends who would have otherwise attracted him 
to stay too long. 

" This sand hill was a favorite camping-ground with all 
the Western tribes, in their annual migration from their 
far off homes on the banks of the Mississippi, the shores 
of Lake Superior, and the rivers and lakes of the western 
forests, to receive froin the Indian agent at Maiden the 
annuities so liberally furnished them by the British Gov- 
ernment. At different times the Sacs, Sioux, Foxes, 
Winnebagoes, Menominees, lowas, Wyandots, Pottawat- 
omies, Chippewas, Tawas and other tribes congregated 
at this favorite spot, and made night hideous with their 
discordant yells. Here they held their war and medicine 
dances. Their music was the monotonous sound of the 
rude drum, beaten with unvarying stroke, frequently all 
night long. It was done to drive the evil spirit off, and 
sometimes indicated that a warrior was laid in his grave/' 

This practice on the part of the British Government 
was continued down to 1836, and I have seen the river 
alive with canoes of these various tribes, as late as the 
second year of my residence in Springwells. 

The general level of the land in the vicinity of Detroit is 
varied, over a considerable portion of the town of Spring- 
wells, by ridges of sand and gravel. They mark the 
shores or water-lines of the ancient lake or ocean, at 
different epochs. These elevated places were often 
chosen by the natives for sepulchral purposes. Until 
recently it was not known that any portion of these was 

In the year 1870, in digging away a section from one 
of these ridges, on land of Mr. J. H. Carstens, opposite 
Fort Wayne, one of the ancient tombs was disturbed, 
and the skeletons of fourteen bodies disinterred. They 


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were in the usual contracted posture, and beside the 
head of each was an earthen crock. Two of these, 
which were quite perfect, were the vases described in a 
former page, and now in the Archaeological Museum at 

Among a large number of arrow-points and other arti- 
cles common to the mounds were several lance-heads of 
unusual size and beauty. They were of milk-white 
quartz, about 7 inches long by 3 wide, and very finely 
and evenly serrated. 

Among the relics was a long needle of copper, afid a 
necklace of copper beads, but no vestige of iron. 

There was the usual report of big bones. In this case 
the large individual measured seven and a half feet in 
height ! 

The original surface of the ground was about fifteen 
feet above the general level, and consisted of drift gravel, 
overlaid by yellow sand. The bodies were found at a 
depth of six or seven feet from this original surface, and 
were, of course, interred in these deep graves before the 
tumulus, which was only three or four feet high, was 
heaped above. 

About half a mile below the group of SpringwellS tu- 
muli already mentioned, is a small circular earthwork, of 
the kind alluded to at the beginning of these observa- 
tions upon the Indian antiquities of Michigan. 

It consists of a low embankment, of an oval form, en- 
closing about one and a half acres. The longest axis is 
320 feet, the shortest 250 feet, to centre of embankment. 
The latter is about twelve feet wide at base, and about 
two feet in height. The ditch from which the earth was 
taken is about eight feet wide, and mostly on the outer 
side, but is in some places on the inner side, as though 


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this had been a matter of indifference. At the south 
end, toward the river, and about 100 feet distant, is an 
opening or gateway, 50 feet wide. 

The accompanying sketch will give a clearer idea of 
the situation. It is upon a small area of land, about 500 
feet long, and as many wide, which rises gently from the 
river to the height of about six feet. No attempt seems 
to have been made to level the surface within the en- 

This tract of firm land is surrounded by a morass, or 
open wet prairie, which upon the north and west sides 
is several hundred feet wide. Upon the east this marsh 
narrows to a neck about 100 feet wide, which separates 
the hard-land tract from a ridge of some fifteen feet 
elevation. There are traces of what appear to have once 
been two parallel embankments, a few feet apart, which 
crossed the neck of marsh, in a direct line towards the 
circular ** fort,** if such it may be called. 

Of the purpose for which this work was constructed, we 
are left to conjecture. It would hardly seem to have 
answered that of a fortification, as it is overlooked by 
the higher land on the east, within the distance of an 
arrow cast. There are no traces of a stockade, such as 
have been found with similar structures in Western New 
York, and attributed to the Iroquois. The width of the 
gateway, and the absence of any protective mound 
within, and the irregular character of the ditch hardly 
accord with the supposition that it was a military work. 
It might have served as a place of security for the 
women and children, while the warriors were upon a war- 
path, or been thrown up in some sudden emergency. 

There is nothing to indicate that the enclosure sur- 
rounded a village, and neither the ancient nor modern 


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races are supposed to have had herds of domesticated 
animals, requiring the protection of corrals. Yet the 
regularity of the work marks it as one of studied design. 

When this interesting relic first came to my knowledge, 
half a century ago, it was in the midst of a dense forest 
and thicket, shrouded from any observation but that of 
an antiquary, and cut off from roads and settlements by 
the morass. Many generations had risen and passed 
away since the dusky forms of its artificers were consigned 
to the neighboring tumuli, and antique oaks and ram- 
bling grape-vines — its sole occupants — silently told the 
story of the years that had gone by, 

I shall close these remarks with some account of the 
great mound near the junction of the river Rouge with 
the Detroit, at Del Rey, three miles below the city. 

Ever since the settlement of the country this mound 
has been a well-known and conspicuous feature. To the 
old French habitants it was also known that it had been 
used by the Indians as a burial-place. Yet its true char- 
acter seems never to have been fully appreciated, and the 
interest which attaches to it may warrant me in occupy- 
ing some further pages in its description. 

For nearly half a century, portion after portion has 
been dug away and removed, by wagon load and boat 
load, and little notice taken of its contents, until now it 
is but a miniature of its former self. Mr. Bourdeno, who 
has lived in the vicinity for more than sixty years, says 
the mound originally extended from its present limits 
westerly fully 500 feet, to where a bend in the Rouge 
brings that river close to the highway. The mound or 
hill was then 700 or 800 feet long, 400 feet wide, and not 
less than forty feet high. The south side bordered close 


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on the river for its whole length. It was symmetrical in 
form, and the slopes were about as steep as the sand, of 
which most of it was composed, could be retained. Not 
only has it been reduced more than half the entire 
length, but more than half also of its width on the river 
side. Little of the original shape now remains, and the 
present extreme height nowhere exceeds thirty feet 
above the stream. 

But little examination is needed to show that some 
part at least of the elevation is natural, for a stratum of 
gravel appears below ten or more feet of sand, which 
evidently belongs to the drift that has left many similar 
deposits over this region. A portion of the overlying 
sand may be ascribed to the same source, but I think 
the fact will be made evident that a considerable part of 
the original, and even of the present elevation, is artifi- 

The situation is such as would be chosen by the 
Mound-Builders, over all others, for a resting-place and 
monument to their dead. It is most picturesque. At 
the base, circling nearly two sides of the mound, lay the 
deep waters of the river Rouge. Beyond stretched a 
field of natural meadow, to the river Detroit, half a mile 
distant, and visible for many miles of its course. To 
the south and west were seen Grosse Isle and the chan- 
nel leading past Maiden to Lake Erie. Above stretched 
the straits, as far as the site of the city, while north- 
ward the view commands many miles of rolling country. 
The tumulus must have been visible from a great dis- 
tance, in every direction. 

Much as has been lost by the wanton destruction of 
this instructive monument, enough is disclosed to show 
that this huge mound has been the memorial of many 


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interesting and marvellous events. From the immense 
number of skeletons found within it, and the mode of 
their occurrence, there can be little doubt that it was 
one of these national sepulchres of the Hurons, and 
other Algonquin tribes, where were deposited the 
remains of their dead, that had been carefully kept for 
the purpose, until the flesh had disappeared, and the 
proper season had arrived for the great '* Festival of the 

This was attended, amid the general gathering of the 
tribes, with many ceremonies, to which I shall only 
briefly allude. The festival has been so. well described 
in the 15th Canto of Teuch-sa-Grondie^ by our lamented 
townsman, Levi Bishop, that I refer the curious to that 
poem for its full illustration. 

Until this ceremony had taken place the spirits of the 
dead were supposed to wander restlessly about, as did 
the unburied Romans on the borders of the Styx. 

" Departed spirits linger still, — 
Their vacant place in cabin fill; 
Awaiting for the festal day. 
To speed them on their destined way,-^ 
To final home, — to land afar — 
To land beyond the evening star." 

When the appointed time has arrived 

" — the recent dead 
Are lifted from their temporary bed, • 

The relics — shapeless forms, in swift de<j^y, 
The mouldy bones, without the lifeless clay, 
Of both the sexes, and of young and old ; 
The child, the lover, sachem, chieftain bold, — 
A frightful throng, a melancholy train, 
Come forth their final resting-place to gain." 


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The dismal process of cleansing the bones — the expos- 
ure of the remains to the view of mourning friends — the 
decoration in the richest furs — the display of gifts des- 
tined for sacrifice, — the procession — the harangue — the 
dance — the games — the feast — the solemn song, broken 
at intervals by the long-measured, dreary funeral wail, 
simulating voices of disembodied souls, winging their 
way to the land of spirits, — the promiscuous casting of 
the remains into one general pit, amid *'a weeping, 
shrieking, howling concourse ** of guests and mourners, 
gathered from the whole nation, all illuminated by the 
midnight glare of blazing torches and camp-fires, consti- 
tuted a scene unique as it was solemn and awful ; one of 
those mysteries of the past that is never to return. 

" Two fathoms deep the burial pit, 
And twice two ample fathoms wide ; 
A circle that might well admit 
A thousand bodies, side by side.' * 

The Jesuit Relations of 1636 tell us of a place of this 
kind set apart among the Hurons in Canada, before their 
fatal dispersion by the Iroquois, where they were accus- 
tomed to inter their dead in one common sepulchre, 
heaping above them the funeral mound. This ceremony 
took place once in ten or twelve years.* 

That the river Rouge mound was of this character 
there is much cumulative evidence to prove. Mr. Bour- 
deno has seen hundreds of skeletons removed in the dig- 
ging down of the hill. He says that in some parts there 
seems to have been a " cellar,** which was filled with 
bones, mingled indiscriminately. 

* It is matter of history that a portion of this nation, which escaped the 
massacre on Lake Huron, fled to and settled below Detroit, where they 
were known as Wyandots. 


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Squire Ludlow, an old resident, also gives similar ac- 
counts of the number of skeletons disinterred. His 
statement goes further, as to their immense quantities, 
much of which he collected and buried elsewhere. Thou- 
sands of fragments of human bones still lie bleaching on 
the sand, mingled with sherds of pottery and other relics. 

Powerful as is the interest which attaches to this hill 
of the dead from this proof of its character, it presents 
other points of interest. 

It affords certain evidence that cremation was practised 
by the Mound-Builders of this region. It was also, in all 
probability, a sacred or " altar " mound. In the account 
given me by Bourdeno he states, that in other parts of 
the mound than those containing the " cellars,** much 
charcoal and ashes were found, mingled with burned 
bones. With these were many pieces of large pots, but 
all were broken. The latter fact is consonant with the 
theory of cremation, for on these occasions the relics, 
instead of being buried whole with the dead, as in ordi- 
nary cases, were thrown upon the burning pile, and of 
course suffered partial destruction. 

Another phase in the history'of this mound is related 
by Bourdeno, viz., that in Pontiac*s time, and before the 
fatal ambuscade at Bloody Run, there occurred at this 
place a massacre of British soldiers by the Indians, and 
that the dead were buried in this mound. I am not 
aware that history alludes to this event, but the fact that 
many bodies of white soldiers have been interred in the 
hill is evident, from the character of the skulls found in a 
certain part of it, and from the attendant relics, such as 
pieces of scabbards, buttons and other portions of military 
equipment, which have escaped decay. 

During old territorial times the mound was made to 


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subserve the living. A house was erected on the sum- 
mit, near the east end, which was at first a trading-post 
for the Indians. It has been gone many years, — all ex- 
cept a large quantity of bricks and mortar, and other 
rubbish. The relic-hunter finds over the whole surface a 
curious intermingling of the old and the new ; — glass, 
pieces of crockery, iron and other articles of modern 
housekeeping are in close communion with flint imple- 
ments, antique pot-sherds, and Indian trinkets, and with 
bits of brass and iron that once belonged to the accoutre- 
ments of the British soldier. 

Desirous of more fully determining the true character 
of the mound, a few years ago I proceeded, in company 
with Messrs. Henry Gillman and H. G. Hubbard, to a 
practical investigation. 

Having determined, as nearly as possible, the central 
axis of the original mound, we proceeded to open a 
trench near to it, and through the highest part now re- 
maining, a portion of which seemed to have been undis- 
turbed and was still covered with sod. 

This trench was commenced on the river side, near the 
top, six feet wide and five deep, and was continued 
northerly for the distance of ten feet before anything ap- 
peared to reward the labor, except an English half-penny 
of George III.,*and a United States cent of 1829. These 
were found about four feet below the surface of the 
digging. We then struck a skull. This was dug care- 
fully around, and the skeleton exposed. It lay with the 
head to the east, and was so doubled together and 
crushed, that the whole occupied a space not more than 
two feet long by four inches thick. 

It had evidently originally been placed in a sitting 
posture. The skull was so much flattened and decayed 


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as to render it impossible to determine the shape or size. 
The ribs and most of the vertebrae and smaller bones had 
perished, but the larger bones of the arms and legs were 
sufficiently perfect to be removed. The flattening of the 
tibia, first pointed out by Mr. Gillman as characteristic 
of the most ancient human remains In this region, was 
very observable. 

On the south side of the head was a small pot, com- 
posed of baked clay, which was also so flattened and de- 
cayed that it could be removed only in fragments. This 
skeleton was only three feet below the surface, but how 
many feet had been originally heaped over it it was im- 
possible to say. 

To the west, and about two feet from the above and 
one foot deeper, was a mass apparently composed of 
burned human remains. It formed a dark, reddish soil, 
several inches thick, and quite hard and compact* It oc- 
cupied a space two feet by one and a half, and four 
inches thick. Close to this were a few unbumed por- 
tions of a skeleton, and a perfectly formed greenstone 

At about the same distance from the skeleton first 
mentioned, and a foot lower down, was another mass of 
cinders. Still deeper, and at a foot remove to the west, 
was another mass of considerably larger extent, and a 
foot thick. 

Among these masses of compacted cinder were several 
large nodules of irregular form, and of a yellowish-red 
color, which seemed held together by a cement of iron 
rust. Nothing, however, beyond this indicated that these 
might once have composed vessels of iron. The lowest 
of the compacted masses was five feet beneath the 
present surface. That they consisted in part of burned 


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human bones there could be no doubt, and they establish 
the fact of cremation beyond question. 

In excavating another trench at a lower part of the 
mound, we came, at a depth of two feet, upon what^ ap- 
peared, from its. color and character, to have at one period 
constituted the original surface. A few itiches below 
this was disclosed a stratum of black earth, composed of 
cinders and burned bones, the extent of which was traced 
at several points, and found to constitute a bed not less 
than twenty feet square. On the disturbed surface was 
found a spot covered with broken fragments of clay. 
This, as the matrix is entirely sand, may be presumed to 
be an artificial deposit. It may have formed part of an 
"altar," or clay hearth, such as are pointed out bySquier 
in his so-called " Altar Mounds ** of Ohio. 

Continuing the excavations beneath the sodded portion 
of the mound, at three feet from the surface we uncovered 
numerous skeletons. They were disposed irregularly, as 
though hastily buried. The skulls and some of the bones 
were in tolerably perfect preservation. Quite a number 
were those of babes. Some of the crania were shattered, 
as if from heavy blows. Two of them exhibited a round 
hole at the apex, made by some sharp instrument after 
death. The rimming is plainly visible, and the holes are 
about half an inch diameter. 

We now sunk a shaft or well into the sand at the place 
where the hard, cemented masses were discovered. This 
was continued to the depth of eight feet, and here were 
found numerous nodules or lumps of a white substance, 
which proved to be disintegrated bone. These continued 
in considerable numbers through the succeeding three 
feet, when the digging was discontinued. How much 


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lower still these singular masses continue was left unde- 

There was no appearance of the sand having ever been 
disturbed, yet the presence of these bones made evident 
either that interments had taken place at this great depth 
of more than ten feet, or that the earth had accumulated 
since the deposition. It is entirely improbable that any 
of the Indian races buried their dead in graves of that 
extreme depth, for no such custom is known. And as 
these occur immediately below the undoubted Indian 
remains first mentioned, it is apparent that interments 
took place during long intervals of time, the earth heaped 
above the first being a foundation for a new interment, 
bodies being sometimes buried entire and sometimes 
burned, the remains being covered, like the others, with 
a fresh deposit of sand. Thus year by year, and cycle 
by cycle, the mound grew in height and proportions. 

Since the discovery of the two perforated skulls others 
have come to light, similarly treated, elsewhere in the 
State. The condition of these crania indicates that they 
are comparatively modern. For what purpose were these 
perforations? A suggestion has been made, and it ac- 
cords with the known a^lxieties of the Indian, that the 
holes were for giving more speedy release to the spirit 
from its earthly tenement. Another supposition is of a 
very practical kind, that they were intended as a means 
of suspending the skull in view of the friends of the de- 
ceased, until the time of the great festival of inhumation. 

We must regard this great mound — now being so ruth- 
lessly destroyed — as a vast necropolis, containing the 
dead of many centuries, belonging both to the prehistoric 
past and to our modern era. 

In this beautiful spot the red man of all those departed 


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eras, perhaps from many now forgotten nations, desired 
to make his final rest after the toils and pleasures of life 
were ended, and to be gathered to his fathers in the place 
where reposed the bones of generations gone before. To 
his limited comprehension this tumulus of sand was 
stable as an Egyptian pyramid, for it was secured by 
religious veneration. 

Many a time had his canoe paused at this place, and 
landing, he had ascended the ancient mound, while his 
eye roamed over the wide expanse of river and marsh and 
land in search of friendly forms, or, it may be, of parties 
of his foes, creeping stealthily along its sandy shores. 
Here, as tradition tells, the great Pontiac resorted — that 
stem, uncompromising foe of the Anglo-Saxon. Where 
but upon the graves of their ancestors, could he so 
worthily arouse the hearts of the living to resist their 
oppressors? And here, when hope had perished, may 
this savage hero have come to muse upon the past and 
its faded glories. What shades would throng around him 
if each skeleton form of the thousands that lay below 
could answer to his summons ! 

** From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands, 
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.' ' 

Within even the brief period of the ascendency of the 
Anglo-Saxon in this region, how much of the past has 
been forgotten ! Who can tell the story of that fierce 
struggle which took place on this spot, when the two 
races that in life had been so distinct and hostile, mingled 
together in death in a common mausoleum, that covered 
alike their bones and their animosities ? 

And now, how changed the scene ! The same noble 
river, in undeviating flood, rolls its waters to the lake, 
but the canoe of the red man has given place to the 


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winged barks of commerce, the barge and the steamer. 
The protecting forests have been superseded by culti- 
vated farms and village streets, and smoking factories. 
In the distance rise to view the spires and buildings of a 
proud and prosperous city. The whoop of the savage 
and his funeral howl are supplanted by the hum of an 
untiring, practical industry. 

Still, as of old, the warm sunshine rests upon this spot ; 
the sparkling waters lave its base ; the winds blow over it 
from the not distant lake, scattering the dust that once 
animated human forms. But the beings these cheered in 
the olden time have all perished from the land ; their his- 
tory is but a fading dream, and the proud pile which they 
created to immortalize their memory has nearly disap- 
peared, and will soon have vanished altogether, in the 
progress of an unheeding and remorseless civilization. 


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A CLASS of works of the Mound-Builders exists in 
Michigan, of unknown age and origin, which have 
received the name of ** Garden-Beds." 

An unusual importance attaches to these remains of a 
lost race, from the fact that they have been almost en- 
tirely overlooked by archaeologists, and that of those 
which were so numerous and prominent forty, or even 
thirty years ago, nearly every trace has disappeared. 
For any knowledge beyond the scanty details hitherto 
recorded we are forced to rely upon the recollections of 
the " oldest inhabitants." We know how uncertain this 
reliance often is, and were it otherwise, we cannot but 
recognize the rapidity with which we are losing our hold 
of this kind of testimony, and the very brief period at 
which it must cease altogether. 

The earliest mention of these relics which I find is 
by Haven, in his ** Archaeology of the United States.*' 
It is the report of Verandrier, who, with several French 
associates, explored this region before 1748. He found 
in the western wilderness " large tracts free from wood, 
many of which are everywhere covered with furrows, as 
if they had formerly been ploughed and sown.*' 

Schoolcraft was the first to give to the world any accu- 

♦ Read before the State Pioneer Society, February 7, 1877, and published 
in the American Antiquarian. 



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rate and systematic account of these " furrows." Indeed, 
he is the only author of note who honors this interesting 
class of the works of the Mound-Builders with more than 
the most meagre mention. Observations were made by 
him as early as 1827. He gives figures of two kinds of 
beds, and he records the fact, that " the garden-beds^ and 
not the mounds, form the most prominent, and, by far, 
the most striking and characteristic antiquarian monu- 
ments of this district of country.** 

Another writer of early date, still resident of our State, 
John T. Blois, published, in 1839, '^ ^^^ "Gazetteer of 
Michigan,** a detailed description, with a diagram, of one 
kind of the beds. 

No mention is made of these remains by Priest or by 
Baldwin. Foster devotes to them less than a single page 
of his voluminous work, and only says, in effect, that 
** they certainly indicate a methodical cultivation which 
was not practised by the red man.*' 

Dr. Lapham describes a few of this kind of remains 
which were found upon the western shore of Lake Mich- 
igan, as " consisting of low parallel ridges, as if corn had 
been planted in drills. They average four feet in width, 
and twenty-five of them have been counted in the space 
of one hundred feet.'* 

Yet these relics constitute a unique feature in the anti- 
quities of our country. They are of especial interest to 
us, from the fact that they were not only the most prom- 
inent of our antiquities, but, with the exception referred 
to in Wisconsin, they are confined to our State. 

Some investigations, by no means thorough, enable me 
to define more accurately and fully than has been hereto- 
fore done the different kinds of these beds, which I shall 
attempt to classify, according to the most reliable infor- 


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mation obtained. But I must first define their situation, 
extent and character. 

The so-called *' Garden-Beds " were found in the val- 
leys of the St. Joseph and Grand rivers, where they oc- 
cupied the most fertile of the prairie land and burr-oak 
plains, principally in the counties of St. Joseph, Cass and 

They consist of raised patches of ground, separated by 
sunken paths, and were generally arranged in plats or 
blocks of parallel beds. These varied in dimensions, 
being from five to sixteen feet in width, in length from 
twelve to more than one hundred feet, and in height six 
to eighteen inches. 

The tough sod of the prairie had preserved very 
sharply all the outlines. According to the universal tes- 
timony, these beds were laid out and fashioned with a 
skill, order and symmetry which distinguished them from 
the ordinary operations of agriculture, and were com- 
bined with some peculiar features that belong to no 
recognized system of horticultural art. 

In the midst of diversity, sufficient uniformity is dis- 
coverable to enable me to group the beds and gardens, as 
in the following 


1. Wide convex beds, in parallel rows, without paths, 

composing independent plats. (Width of beds, 12 
feet; paths, none; length, 74 to 115 feet.) Fig. i. 

2. Wide convex beds, in parallel rows, separated by 

paths of same width, in independent plats. (Width 
of bed, 12 to 16 feet ; paths same ; length, 74 to 132 
feet.) Fig. 2. 

3. Wide and parallel beds, separated by narrow paths, 


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arranged in a series of plats longitudinal to each 
other. (Width of beds, 14 feet ; paths, 2 feet ; 
length, 100 feet.) Fig. 3. 

4. Long and narrow beds, separated by narrower paths 

and arranged in a series of longitudinal plats, each 
plat divided from the next by semi-circular heads. 
(Width of beds, 5 feet; paths, i^ feet; length, 
100 feet ; height, 18 inches.) Fig. 4. 

5. Parallel beds, arranged in plats similar to class 4, but 

divided by circular heads. (Width of beds, 6 feet ; 
paths, 4 feet ; length, 12 to 40 feet ; height, 18 
inches.) Fig. 5. 

6. Parallel beds, of varying widths and lengths, separated 

by narrow paths, and ' arranged in plats of two or 
more at right angles N. and S., E. and W., to the 
plats adjacent. (Width of beds, 5 to 14 feet ; 
paths, I to 2 feet; length, 12 to 30 feet; height, 8 
inches.) Figures a, b and c^ are varieties. Fig. 6. 

7. Parallel beds, of uniform width and length, with 

narrow paths, arranged in plats or blocks, and single 
beds, at varying angles. (Width of beds, 6 feet ; 
paths, 2 feet ; length, about 30 feet ; height, 10 to 
12 inches.) Fig. 7. 

8. Wheel-shaped plats, consisting of a circular bed, with 

beds of uniform shape and size radiating therefrom, 
all separated by narrow paths. (Width of beds, 6 
to 20 feet; paths, i foot; length, 14 to 20 feet.) 
Fig. 8. 

I present diagrams of each of these classes or kinds of 
beds. Of these only those numbered i, 2 and 4 have 
ever before been delineated, to my knowledge. (See 
figures i to 8, pages 257-261.) Nos. 3 and 5 cire 


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described by Schoolcraft and Blois, while the others 
are figured as well — i and 2 by Schoolcraft and 4 by 
Blois. No. 3, according to the latter, consists of five 
plats, each 100 feet long, 20 beds in each plat. School- 
craft does not give the exact localities, and I am unable 
to state whether beds of the same class have been no- 
ticed by other observers. As to their extent, his lan- 
guage is, " The beds are of various sizes, covering gener- 
ally from 20 to 100 acres." Some are reported to 
embrace even 300 acres. Plats of beds are undoubtedly 
here referred to. 

Of the plat figured by Blois (No. 4), the writer says : 
" They are found a short distance from Three Rivers, on 
one side of an oval prairie, surrounded by burr-oak plains. 
The prairie contains three hundred acres. The garden 
is judged to be half a mile in length by one-third in 
breadth, containing about one hundred acres, regularly 
laid out in beds running north and south, in the form of 
parallelograms, five feet in width and one hundred in 
length, and eighteen inches deep.*' The distinctive pe- 
culiarity of these beds is what Blois calls the " semi- 
lunar" head, at the extremity of each bed, separated 
from them by a path as represented. 

Class 6, so far as my own inquiries warrant, represents 
the form and arrangement which is most common, viz.: 
that of a series of parallel beds formed into blocks of two 
or more, alternating with other similar blocks placed at 
right angles to them. (See figures ^, b and r.) The pre- 
vailing width of the bed is five or six feet, and that of 
the paths one and a half to two feet. The lengjh of the 
plats or blocks varies, the average being about twenty 
feet. Gardens of this kind were found by the early set- 


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tiers at Schoolcraft, the burr-oak plains at Kalamazoo, 
Toland's prairie, Prairie-Ronde, and elsewhere. 

Mr. Henry Little says, that in 1831 they were very nu- 
merous on the plains where now stands the village of 
Kalamazoo ; and south of the mound, eight or ten acres 
were entirely covered by them. 

Mr. E. Laken Brown confirms this account, and saiys 
they reminded him of old New England gardens, being 
very regular and even, and the beds five feet by twelve 
or fourteen feet. In 1832 the outlines were very distinct, 
and the burr-oak trees on them as large as any in the vi- 
cinity. Mr. A. T. Prouty concurs as to the extent cov- 
ered, but thinks the beds were six feet wide by twenty-five 
to forty long. On the farm of J. T. Cobb, section 7, town 
of Schoolcraft, the beds were quite numerous as late as 
i860. There must have been 15 acres of them on his 
land. The " sets " would average five or six beds each. 
Neighbors put the number of acres covered with them 
in 1830, within the space of a mile, at one hundred. 

Fig, 6'b, of class 6, is from a drawing by James R. 
Cumings, of Galesburg, of a garden in which the beds are 
of more than usual diversity in width and length. H. M. 
Shafter and Roswell Ransom, old settlers, say that three 
or four acres on the edge of the prairie, at this place, 
were covered with the beds. On the farm of the latter 
in the town of Comstock, of one hundred acres, there 
were not less than ten acres of beds, six feet by twenty- 
five to forty, arranged in alternate blocks, having a north- 
and-south and east-and-west direction. 

Fig. G-Cy is from a drawing by Mr. Shafter. 

The series represented by Class 7 (fig. 7) were found 
at Prairie-Ronde. They are platted and described to me 
by Messrs. Cobb and Prouty. They differ from the more 


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ordinary form of No. 6, in the arrangement of the blocks 
or sets of beds, which is here not at right angles, but at 
various and irregular angles, also in the single beds out- 
lying. The number of beds in each block is also greater 
than usual. 

Class 8 is established on the authority of Henry Little 
and A. T. Prouty, of Kalamazoo. The figure delineated 
is from the descriptions and dimensions given by the for- 
mer. The diameter of the circular bed and the length of 
the radiating ones are each twenty-five to thirty feet. 
The latter describes two of similar design, but of smaller 
dimensions, the centre bed being only six feet in diame- 
ter, and the radiating ones twenty feet. All occurred at 
Kalamazoo, and in immediate association with the other 
forms of beds at that place, represented generally by 
Class 6. 

There is reason for supposing that there may have 
existed another class of beds, differing altogether from 
any I have represented, from expressions used by bdth 
Schoolcraft and Blois. The former speaks of ** enigmat- 
ical plats of variously shaped beds ; '* and further, ** nearly 
all the lines of each area or sub-area of beds arc rectan- 
gular and parallel. Others admit of half circles and 
variously curved beds, with avenues, and are differently 
grouped and disposed." 

The latter says, the beds "appear in various fanciful 
shapes'' Some are laid off in rectilineal and curvilineal 
figures, either distinct or combined in a fantastic manner, 
in parterres and scolloped work, with alleys between, 
and apparently ample walks leading in different direc- 

This language is too vague to enable me to construct 
a diagram, nor have I any confirmation to offer from 


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other sources. The reputation of the writers will not 
allow us to consider the descriptions fanciful, but it is 
possible to suppose they were misled by the representa- 
tions of others. 

Were these vegetable gardens? To answer this ques- 
tion, we must proceed according to the doctrine of 
probabilities. All opinions seem to agree, that these 
relics denote some species of cultivation ; and that they 
are very different from those left by the field culture 
of any known tribes of Indians. Nor do we find any sim- 
ilar remains in' connection with the works of the Mound- 
Builders, which exist, on so extensive a scale, through the 
valley of the Mississippi River, although those unknown 
builders were undoubtedly an agricultural people. 

The principal crop of the Indians is maize, and this 
was never cultivated by them in rows^ but in hillsy often 
large but always disposed in a very irregular manner. 
As little do these beds resemble the deserted fields of 
modern agriculture. On the other hand^ the resemblance 
of many of the plats to the well-laid out garden beds of 
our own day is very striking ; while the curvilinear forms 
suggest analogies quite as strong to the modern ^^ pleas- 
ure garden*' 

The nearest approach to anything resembling horticult- 
ural operations among Indian tribes, within the historic 
period, is noticed by Jones, who refers to a practice, 
among some of the southern Indians, of setting apart 
separate pieces of ground for each family. This author 
quotes from Captain Ribault's ^* Discovery of Terra 
Florida,** published in London, 1563. ** They labor and 
till the ground, sowing the fields with a grain called 
Mahis, whereof they make their meal, and in their gar- 
dens they plant beans, gourds, cucumbers, citrons, peas, 


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and many other fruits and roots unknown to us. Their 
spades and mattocks are made of wood, so well and fitly 
as is possible." 

In the St. Joseph Valley I learned of numerous places, 
widely apart, where the labor and skill of our ancient 
horticulturists were apparent in small gardens, laid out in 
different styles, and with an eye to the picturesque ; as if 
each family had not only its separate garden patch, but 
had used it for the display of its own peculiar taste. 

Historians tell us of the Aztecs^ that they had gardens 
in which were cultivated various plants, for medicinal 
uses, as well as for ornament. Was there something 
analogous to this in the Michigan Nation ? Did the 
latter also have botanical gardens ? May we accord to 
this unknown people a considerable advance in science, in 
addition to a cultivated taste, and an eye for symmetry 
and beauty, which is without precedent among the pre- 
historic people of this continent, north of Mexico ? 

These extensive indications of ancient culture neces- 
sarily imply a settled and populous community. We are 
led, therefore, to look for other evidences of the num- 
bers and character of the people who made them. But 
here an extraordinary fact presents itself; such evidences 
are almost wanting ! The testimony of nearly every one 
whom I have consulted — men who were among the first 
of the white race to break up the sod, that for ages had 
consecrated these old garden lands — agrees in the fact, 
that almost none of the usual aboriginal relics were 
found ; no pottery ; no spear- and arrow-heads ; no im- 
plements of stone ; not even the omnipresent pipe. 
Tumuli, or burial mounds of the red man, are not un- 
common, though not numerous, in Western Michigan, 
but have no recognized association with the garden race. 


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Upon the St. Joseph and Colorado rivers, and in the 
town of Prairie-Ronde, exist several small circular and 
rectangular embankments, resembling the lesser works of 
the Mound-Builders so numerous in Ohio. But no con- 
nection can be traced between these detached earthworks 
and the garden-beds. None of them seem to have been 
the bases of buildings, nor do they give indication of any 
religious origin or rites. There are no traces of dwell- 
ings, and the soil which has so sacredly preserved the 
labor of its occupants, discloses not even their bones ! 

At Three Rivers, and in Gilead, Branch County, are 
some ancient embankments, which are probably referable 
to this people, and may pass for works of defence. That 
at the first named place was notably extensive. It con- 
sisted only of an earth embankment, about six feet in 
height, extending between two forks of a river, a mile 
apart. It thus enclosed a large area, and with a sufficient 
garrison might have withstood the siege of a large army 
of barbarous warriors. 

It seems strange, indeed, that these garden beds, sug- 
gestive as they are, should be the only memorials of a 
race which has left such an evidence of civilized advance- 
ment, and was worthy of more enduring monuments! 
We may reasonably conclude, that they were a people of 
peaceable disposition^ of laborious habits, and of aesthetic 
if not scientific tastes ; that they lived in simple and 
patriarchal style, subsisting on the fruits of the earth, 
rather than of the chase. Their dwellings and their tools 
were of wood, and have perished. This simple record of 
their character and labors is all, it may be, we can ever 

But is this all? May we not form some reasonable 


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conjecture as to the period in which these gardeners 

A fact mentioned by Dr. Lapham furnishes a species 
of evidence, as to the relative antiquity of the garden 
beds of Wisconsin, as compared with the animal mounds. 
They were found overlying the latter; from which he 
infers, of course, a more recent origin. We may also 
suppose a considerably more recent age, since it is not 
likely that the race could have thus encroached upon the 
works of another, until long after these had been aban- 
doned, and their religious or other significance forgotten. 

The date of the abandonment of the beds may be ap- 
proximately fixed, by the age of the trees found growing 
upon them. One of these mentioned by Schoolcraft, cut 
dowti in 1837, had 335 cortical layers. This carries the 
period back as far as 1502, or some years prior to the 
discovery of this country by the French. How long 
these labors were abandoned befofe this tree commenced 
its growth may not be susceptible of proof. Early 
French explorers do not appear to have been interested 
in the question, and it does not seem to me necessary to 
go further back than the three centuries during which 
that tree flourished, for a period quite long enough to 
have crumbled into indistinguishable dust every trace 
of wooden dwellings and implements, as well as of the 
bodies of their fabricators, if the latter received only 
simple earth burial. 

At the time of the arrival of the French the country 
was in possession of Algonquin tribes, who emigrated 
from the St. Lawrence about the middle of the i6th cent- 
ury. They were ignorant of the authors of these works, 
and were not more advanced in the arts of culture than 
the other known tribes. 


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It IS probable that the few defensive works I have 
mentioned were erected by this settled and peaceful 
race of gardeners, as places of temporary refuge for the 
women and children, against the raids of the warlike 
tribes living eastward of them. The larger one may have 
served for the general defence in a time of sudden and 
great emergency. It is probable that on some such occa- 
sion they were surprised by their savage and relentless 
foes, and were overwhelmed, scattered or exterminated. 

Most of the facts I have been able to present are gath- 
ered, in large part, from the memories — of course not 
always exact or reliable — of early settlers, and after 
modern culture had for many years obliterated the old. 

It is perhaps useless to regret that these most inter- 
esting and unique relics of a lost people have so com- 
pletely perished, through the greed of the dominant 
race ; or that they could not have received, while they 
yet remained, the mc^re exact and scientific scrutiny 
which is now being applied to the antiquities of our land. 
Much that might then have been cleared up, must now 
remain forever involved in mystery, or be left to conject- 

In September, 1885, the writer visited the region of 
the ancient garden beds, in hopes of being so fortunate 
as to find some remaining. He did discover, near School- 
craft, on a plat of land which had been recently cleared 
of its timber, a few traces of beds, belonging to a set, 
most of which had been broken up by the plough. 

Four or five beds could be distinctly traced, for the 
distance of some ten to fifteen feet. The remainder of 
th^ir lengths, said to be some twenty to thirty feet, had 


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been obliterated by cultivation. Each bed had a width 
of about ten feet from centre to centre of the interven- 
ing paths. The latter had apparently a width of two or 
three feet, but it was impossible to define the exact out- 

After much inquiry I could learn of no other place in 
or near Prairie-Ronde, or the plains of St. Joseph and 
Kalamazoo coiinties, where any traces of the old garden 
beds remained. 

Mr. Cobb informed me that about 1859 ^^ endeavored 
to preserve portions of a set of these beds, which were 
well covered by tough, protective prairie sod. But 
when the white grub took possession of the turf there- 
abouts his ancient garden reserve did not "escape. In a 
year or two the hogs, in their search for the grub, had so 
rooted and marred the outlines that he ploughed the 
beds up. 

I found many old residents who well remembered 
the garden plats as they appeared a half century ago, and 
all concurred in the admiration excited by their peculiar 
character and the perfection of their preservation. Mr. 
Cobb says, he often took his friends to see his " ancient 
garden,** counted the beds, and speculated upon their 
object. The set of beds, which is shown only partially in 
his sketch (Fig. 7), contained thirteen beds, and was the 
largest of the sets. The others averaged five or six beds 

All concurred, too, as to the great extent of land, 
amounting to several hundred acres, covered, wholly or 
partially, by the beds, chiefly upon the northern edge of 
the prairie. That all visible evidence of their existence 
should have so completely disappeared is not surprising 
to any one wTio notes their situation, upon the richest 


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portions of the mixed prairies and plains. The lands 
most esteemed by the garden race were those which first 
attracted the modern farmer. These lands still consti- 
tute fields as the eye can anywhere rest upon, 
and in a region second in loveliness to no other part of 
our country. The wants of the early settler almost pre- 
clude any care for the preservation of what was regarded 
as mere curiosities. Even when spared from the plough, 
and left to the care of nature, the absence of the annual 
fires, which had prevented the growth of timber; the 
roots of trees upheaving the beds;. the decay of fallen 
timber ; the hummocks caused by upturned roots ; the 
destruction of the turf by the forest growth, and by cattle 
and hogs, all tend to deface the beds, and leave them to 
be reduced to the general level by the elements. Under 
these circumstances, a few years even would suffice to ob- 
literate outlines which had remained almost unaltered 
for centuries. 


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Fig. I. 

156 ft. 

Fig. 2. 

132 ft. 



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Fig. 3- 



Fig. 4. 

ICO fit. 



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Fig- S 

12 to 40 ft. 


Fig. 6. 



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Fig. 6. 




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Fig. 7. 


Fig. 8. 


Digitized by VjOOQIC 


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" Piscator. I hope I may take as great a liberty to blame any man, and 
laugh al him too, let him be never so grave, that hath not heard what an- 
glers can say in the justification of their art and recreation ; which I may 
again tell you, is so full of pleasure that we need not borrow their thoughts, 
to think ourselves happy.'* 

*' But the poor fish have enemies enough, besides such unnatural fisher- 
men ; (natural enemies) against all which any honest man may make a just 
quarrel — ^but I will not- I will leave them to be quarrelled with and killed 
by others : for I am not of a cruel nature, I love to kill nothing but fish." — 
IzAAK Walton, Complete Angler, 


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Springwells, , 1 84 1. 

DEAR TOM:— What you ask of me will, I fear, 
prove in the recording of less interest than you are 
pleased to anticipate. Nevertheless you stimulate me to 
the attempt. 

I confess to but little of the zeal of honest Izaak 
Walton, and accomplish scarcely any exploits in the pis- 
catory line. Nor have we any rippling brooks, whose 
active inhabitants, brilliant and shy, call forth the high- 
est exercise of the art. But our clear and rapid river 
abounds in excellent fish, of many noted kinds. To 
manage the pole and line, however it may require some 
skill, seems to me but a lazy sport, in our broad stream, 
compared with the ways and means for ensnaring the 
shy denizens of the smaller water courses. Unfortu- 
nately there is not a trout brook, that is, a stream con- 
taining real " brook trout,'* in the whole peninsula. 

In admitting this I derogate nothing from the purity 
of our waters. No element can be more fresh and lim- 
pid than that which flows in such immense volume di- 
rectly before me. Neither have we the eel, which de- 
lights in sluggish and muddy waters: none have been 
found above the falls of Niagara. The moment the 
Straits of Mackinaw are crossed the brook trout is found 
in abundance, in all the rills of the upper peninsula. 
Some other reason exists for the absence of this fish from 
the lower streams than the character of their waters, for 



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all these, as well as the interior lakes that exist so nu- 
merously in Michigan, abound in the same kinds of fish as 
are found in the Eastern States. And we have in the 
" grayling *' of our peninsula as gamy a fish, as brilliant 
in color and of as handsome form, and as delicate in the 
eating, as the true brook trout. Many sportsmen, as 
well as gourmands, indeed, give him the preference. 

I have two prosaic methods of capturing some of 
our finest Detroit River fish, which involve little trouble 
and no waste of time. One is by " night lines." A 
strong cord is needed, with large hook and sinker, and 
the best bait is pork. This line is fastened, at one end, 
to the shore, and is carried out at evening to the dis- 
tance of several rods by boat, or is thrown by force of 
arm as far out as possible. It sinks to the bottom and 
remains until morning, when it is drawn in, and usually 
affords me the satisfaction of taking off a large pike or 
pickerel, or a black bass. Sometimes, it is true, my rea- 
sonable expectations are disappointed, by a huge cat-head 
or a dog-fish. Such are generally thrown away as worth- 
less, but having learned the secret of cooking properly, 
they prove to be no despicable food. So you see " all 
is fish that comes to my net." In fact, French cook- 
ery can accomplish almost any wonder, from making pal- 
atable a roasted gull to a savory muskrat stew ! 

A more ingenious and even a more profitable and 
*easy mode of fishing was suggested by the cove, which 
sets up from the river across my claim. As soon as the 
ice breaks up in the spring, fish from the river, in pur- 
suit of early worms and insects, enter the cove and work 
their way up the current, until it loses itself in the mead- 
ows. Boys hunt them in these shallows, whence they 
are frequently unable to retrace their course, I have 


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overtaken accidentally and killed with an axe a very 
large fish, as I was traversing the fields. 

The road from my house to the fields crosses this 
cove, leaving a narrow channel, which is bridged. On 
the upper side of the bridge has been constructed a trap, 
or "fyke.** It consists of a box formed of strips of 
boards, so nailed as to permit free passage to the water, 
but not to a fish of a size worth detaining. This box, 
which is about four feet square, is firmly fixed by stakes, 
and occupies half the width of the channel. The other 
half is obstructed by stakes, so driven as to divert the 
fish in their progress up the current, towards the box. 
The latter has a wide opening on the bridge side, to 
which are nailed laths or small strips converging to 
near the centre, on the plan of the old-fashioned wire 
mouse trap. 

By this , simple contrivance do we manage to secure 
many a fine fat pickerel, and I have known the water 
absolutely black with the multitude of fish caught in a 
single day. Later in the season the run of the better 
kinds ceases, and bull-heads are almost the only sort that 
enter. Fish are taken from the trap by means of a small 
scoop-net. The slender long-nosed pike {Esox reticula- 
tus), here called pickerel, is often a foot and a half in 
length, and furnishes a good meal. 

Another curious mode of fishing is sometimes prac- 
tised here, and which, to me, was entirely novel. The 
fish that frequent my pond have a habit of basking near 
the surface, where they lie perfectly still for a long time 
enjoying the superior warmth ; for it seems that even 
creatures whose veins are not chilled by the icy touch of 
winter derive pleasure from the warm rays of the life- 
giving sun. The snake loves the heated dust of the 


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268 ^^^^ ^^^ FISHING. 

road-way. Frogs, turtles, and indeed all amphibious and 
cold-blooded animals, indulge in the same kind of enjoy- 

While thus taking their ease, and apparently in a 
quiet sleep, along the shore glides an artful rogue of a 
boy. With cautious movement — for a fish, be it remem- 
bered, sleeps with both eyes open — he brings to the 
level of his shoulder, what ! a fowling-piece ! Bang ! — 
the fish is seen floating on its side. He is not killed, 
only stunned. Quick now, or the prey escapes. Here, 
Veto, the pond is too muddy for any limbs but yours. 
The dog too must be expeditious, otherwise the prey re- 
covers his momently lost faculties, and in the twinkling 
of an eye (canine or human, of course, not fish) is off to 
deeper water. 

But all this is small game, merely boy's play, compared 
with the catching of white-fish {Coregonus albus). All 
the world is now familiar with this lustrous and exquisite 
fish, with which our strait and lakes abound, and which 
has come to be an important article of commerce. 

In our river they are taken only with seines or drag- 
nets, in the spring and fall. The latter is the season of 
the great run, and commences with the approach of cold 
weather in October, lasting until nearly winter. Several 
of these fishing-grounds are in my vicinity ; and many a 
time have I watched the boats as they pull up the stream, 
— a song keeping time to the oars — drop the net, and row 
rapidly back to the shore. Here both ends are drawn in 
by a horse-windlass, the bag of the net soon appearing, 
distended with the shining captives. These are thrown 
into a pile, from which the finest and largest may be 
selected at five to ten cents apiece. 

The largest and best white-fish are taken further up 


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the lakes, the ordinary weight of those from our river 
being about four or five pounds. In lakes Huron and 
Michigan they average five or six pounds, and in Lake 
Superior attain to ten pounds, and even more. The 
largest I ever saw was estimated to weigh twelve to fif- 
teen pounds, and had been pulled ashore by an otter out 
of the cold waters of our great lake. The creature made 
off on the approach of our boat, relinquishing his prey 
to our superior claims — the right of the strongest. 

The seine, of course, catches all kinds of fish that come 
within its sweep, and are not too small to escape through 
its two-and-a-half-inch meshes. Among these is occa- 
sionally a huge sturgeon, often of forty pounds weight. 
And more rarely that prince of a fish and delicate bonne 
bouche^ the muskallonge {Esox estor. — Cuv.). The latter 
is also taken by hook and line in our river and in Lake 
Ste. Claire. 

Another fish of the salmon family is caught in great 
numbers in the lakes above, and is an article of commerce 
only second in importance to the white-fish — the salmon 
trout {Salmo amethystus). It is much larger than its 
white cousin, attaining to forty pounds. Though a 
hard fleshed and admirable fish, it lacks the delicate flavor 
which makes the white-fish so dainty a dish for the epi- 

There is a secret about this matter of flavor which not 
every cook knows, though Indians and Frenchmen well 
understand it. On my first visit to the "Sault,'* our 
party were invited to the house of an Indian trader, to 
dine. Our host, a Scotsman, had been many years on the 
frontier, and had fallen into the fashion of the country 
and the times, and taken unto himself an Indian wife. 

It was his squaw who cooked our meal, and who waited 


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on US at the table, not presuming to sit or eat with us. 
I observed that immediately after our arrival our host 
sent out to the shore of the rapids for a white-fish, 
and having procured the largest and finest male speci- 
men, that had just been drawn out of the foaming waters, 
it was at once dressed, broiled and served up. " Twenty- 
minutes ago exactly,*' said our entertainer, as he di- 
vided a steaming portion to each guest, " this fish was 
enjoying his native element. Had he been half an hour 
dead no understanding gourmand would have thought 
him worthy of his table. He must be eaten while the 
flesh is hard, for .it softens immediately with keeping. 
The flesh of the trout is harder and will keep longer.*' 

Another fish familiar to me, and esteemed by the 
ichthyophagist, is caught in limited quantities, and only 
in Lake Superior, — the siskiwit. It is much too oily to 
be eaten fresh, being a mere mass of fat, but is good 
salted and smoked, and in this state resembles a very fat 
mackerel. Lake Superior furnishes another white-fish, 
of the genus Corygonus, which far exceeds in size the 
river species. It is caught with gill-nets, at a depth of 
from six to sixty fathoms, and has been known to attain 
the weight of forty-five pounds ! The scales on throat 
and belly are tinged a rusty red. Otherwise, except in its 
enormous protuberance, it resembles the common white- 
fish. Like most overgrown things, it is coarse in flesh. 

Before concluding my "angling** experiences, I must 
relate a yet more novel method of fish capture, of which 
I was witness, " et quorum pars fui,*' in one of my wan- 
derings upon our great inland waters. Our party, land- 
ing at a rocky island in Lake Huron, came suddenly 
upon a shoal of fish, that were gambolling in the light 
surf that broke among the boulders which lined the 


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shore. They were not porpoises, as you might suppose 
had it been an ocean shore, but sturgeon, better known 
in a distant part of the country as ** Albany beef." So 
engaged were they in their sport as to be unconscious of 
our presence, while we stripped and waded in among 
them. We thus succeeded in nabbing several with our 
hands alone, and after a pretty hard tussle one fine 
fellow was safely landed. It kept our larder in beef 
and chicken for several days. 

On the flats of Lake Ste. Claire a novel scene may be 
witnessed from a boat floating over the shallows ; namely, 
sturgeon in the act oi pumping. This is their mode of sup- 
plying themselves with craw-fish. These burrow in the 
sand, leaving holes behind them. Here the fish stations 
himself, with his mouth over the hole, and by a strong 
effort of suction produces a current in the water, which is 
drawn violently into his mouth. Considerable sand ac- 
companies, which is ejected by the gills, and settles in 
piles or ridges on either side. Whether or not the craw- 
fish comes out from his retreat to see what all the com- 
motion is about, or whether he comes because he cannot 
help it, certain it is that up he comes, the torrent carry- 
ing him directly into the mouth of the wily fish ; but he 
does not pass out through the gills. 

I was once party to an easy kind of fish capture 
among the hollows, in the rocky bed of a small rapid 
stream on Lake Superior. Numbers of suckers were rest- 
ing in these hollows, in the attempt to make their way up 
the ascent. We caught and threw many ashore with our 
hands. But they paid only in the sport, as they were 
poor eating. 

There are other modes of catching the white and other 
fish of commerce of our waters besides the seine, and 


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much controversy has arisen among fishermen as to the 
respective merits and demerits of the different methods. 

At the Falls of St. Mary both white-fish and salmon 
trout are taken by the Indians with scoop-nets, as also 
. with the spear, in the very midst of the foaming rapids, 
where the fish are temporarily stopped in their upward 
passage. It is a very exciting spectacle to see numbers 
of Jbark canoes darting, light as feathers, in the boiling 
eddies, at the foot of the great " leap,*' an Indian con- 
trolling its dexterous movements with a long pole, while 
another stands at the bow, with spear, or scoop, at the 
end of another pole, watching the finny prey. In winter, 
trout are caught here by hook and line, dropped through 
holes in the ice; but the white-fish never, or seldom — 
for the fact is vouched for, — bites at the hook. 

Another mode of catching white-fish, which has in- 
creased greatly within the past few years, and in many 
localities almost superseded the seine, is by ^e trap or 
pound-net. This consists of a net called the "lead,'* 
having meshes of five inches from knot to knot, which is 
fastened at one end to the shore and reaches into deeper 
water, where it joins another net, called the "pot." 
The latter has meshes of only half the size of the first, 
the object of the lead being to divert the fish, from their 
passage along the shallow grounds, into the trap or 

The vast increase of our fisheries during the last ten 
years, and the repeated observations of intelligent fish- 
ermen, as well as of a few scientific observers, have elic- 
ited many curious facts in the life history of the white- 
fish, which are of great interest. 

The following facts seem to be Well established : 

The white-fish is short lived, and of very rapid growth. 


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maturing the second year, and ending its life with the 

The spawn is deposited in the fall (October and 
November), in shallow water, and the hatching takes 
place in the spring, or first month of summer, according 
to locality. 

Soon after hatching, the young fry withdraw into deep, 
cold water, where they remain until the summer. of the 
following year. 

They then commence their return to the hatching 
grounds, for the purpose of spawning. And it is well 
attested, — incredible as the fact may seem, — that during 
the three months succeeding, or between June and Sep- 
tember, they increase in size from about two and a half 
ounces to from four to nine or ten pounds weight. In 
other words, from mere minnows of one year they attain 

Early in the summer of the third year they retire again 
into deep waters, and are seen no more. The white-fish 
is a bottom-feeder, and lives upon the young, or aquatic 
larvae of the ephemera, which are found in the river 

These fish do not migrate, as was formerly supposed, 
from the lower to the higher lakes, the superior size of 
those found in the latter being due to the local breed, 
and not to age. Fish of the same locality are of remark- 
ably uniform size. 

During the summer months, it will be observed, the 
fish of the second year are making their way up from the 
deep waters to the spawning grounds, while the old 
fishes are returning to the deep water to die. The fish- 
ing season is therefore confined to the spring and fall, — 


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274 ^^^^ ^^^ FISHING, 

from the time the ice leaves until about the middle of 
June, and from September to the end of November. 

At these seasons only full-grown fish are liable to be 

It is contended by advocates of the exclusive use of 
the seine that the stock of fish is being needlessly dimin- 
ished by the use of the pound, which takes the fish indis- 
criminately, the small with the large, whole schools being 
taken at once. 

On the other hand, it is maintained that the pound-net 
cannot so operate, for the reason that the minnows and 
half-grown fish escape through the meshes of the lead. 
And further, that by the constant capture of the stur- 
geon and long-lived fishes of the sucker tribe, which live 
upon the spawn of the white-fish, the annual stock of the 
latter is on the increase wherever these nets are in con- 
stant use. 

It is also said that it is impossible to diminish the 
number, no matter how many are taken, because only 
those are caught which have matured and never prop- 
agate again. Some further time and observation must 
yet be had before these questions can be fully settled. 

It is remarkable that the spawning season of the white- 
fish, unlike that of most other fishes, should be in the 
fall. Still more remarkable is the extraordinarily rapid 
growth, from a minnow of two or three ounces to a full- 
grown adult, in the short space of less than three months. 
It is probable that much of the delicacy of flavor of this 
celebrated fish is due to this rapid growth. 

There is a notion among fishermen — who have, usually, 
numerous offspring, — that the prolific qualities of this 
fish are bestowed upon its consumers. Whatever of 
truth there may be in this tradition, certainly the great 


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fish-eating locality, Mackinaw, beais a charmed reputa- 
tion, as a favorable resort for ladies who desire an in- 
crease of their families. 

Schoolcraft hints at this quality, in the following lines 
from his poem, ** The White-fish " : 

" And oft the sweet morsel up-poised on the knife, 
Excites a bland smile from the blooming young wife ; 
Nor dreams she a sea-fish one moment compares, 
But is thinking the while not of fish but of heirs." 

The trade in the white-fish has been steadily on the 
increase, and has become a very important and profitable 
one to our State. 

The first fishery from which any export was made was 
that of Mr. Barnabus Campau, on Belle Isle (late Isle au 
Cochon of the French), in 1825, but the trade continued 
small and unprofitable until the tide of emigration set in, 
about ten years later. From that time the fisheries, 
which had been confined to Detroit River, gradually ex- 
tended to the lake borders, and during the present year 
two schooners have been hauled around the rapids into 
Lake Superior, to assist in bringing this fine product of 
that noble lake into the market. 

Sincerely Yours. 

Since the above was written, forty years ago, fisheries 
have not only been largely extended, but stringent laws 
have been enacted for their regulation. Active measures 
are also being taken by both the general and State gov- 
ernments, for stocking our streams and lakes with young 
fry, artificially hatched, of the kinds most suitable. 

In 1 841 about 30,000 barrels of white-fish only were 


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packed annually. Probably not less than 50,000 are 
now sold annually by Detroit merchants alone. 

In 1868 half a million of white-fish were captured by 
Detroit River fisheries, as many as 20,000 being some- 
times secured in a single haul of the seine. 

Though the fishing season proper is in the spring and 
fall, modern luxury, at the time when this note is being 
recorded, has invented methods for bringing to our tables 
at all times of the year this estimable food. Not only 
are the finer sorts brought from the cold waters of the 
upper lakes, packed in ice, and with their firmness and 
delicacy little impaired, but they are transported in the 
same frozen condition to the most distant markets. 

In 1855, Mr. George Clark, of Detroit, inaugurated a 
method of impounding the fish, at the time of the fall 
fishing, by dragging them by means of the nets into large 
pens, where they are kept alive and sound for the winter 
supply. There is a very large demand, and the trade is 
carried on in Detroit chiefly. Probably not less than half 
a million are sent from here annually, the produce of 
these winter pens. 

How well I remember the time when the fishing season 
— at which time alone could this dainty fare be obtained 
— was looked forward to by the old residents with pleas- 
ure and impatience, and one of the hardships of a removal 
to other parts of the country was experienced in the 
longing after this favorite dish. Now this " deer of the 
lakes** — par excellence — is not only universally known, 
but is procurable cheaply, at all seasons, both fresh and 
salted, from the lakes to the Gulf, and from the Missis- 
sippi to Cape Cod. It has even overleaped these bounds* 
and is shipped direct to Liverpool. 

But this constant drain has of late years, in spite of all 


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precautions, tended to constantly diminish the annual 
catch. The gill-net has superseded the seine, necessity 
having withdrawn the operations into deeper waters. 
The greed of trade outruns all sober precautions. And it 
is to be feared that the time is rapidly approaching when 
the inhabitants of our lakes and rivers, like the wild ani- 
mals which were once so abundant and are now so few, 
will be in like manner exterminated, and this great indus- 
try of Michigan will cease to be remunerative. 


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' He therefore makes all birds of every sort 
Free of his farm, with promise to respect 
Their several kinds alike, and equally protect." 



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Springwells, , 1850. 

DEAR TOM : — You ask me for some account of the 
feathered inhabiters of my neighborhood. As the 
meagre notes you received from me a long time ago 
about the fishes seem to have pleased you, I willingly 
comply, promising only that you must not expect from 
me the language of a naturalist. 

One of our earliest looked-for indications of the return 
of spring is the flight of aquatic birds. Our position on 
the great chain of lakes gives unusual facilities for observ- 
ing these migrations. 

The breaking up of the ice does not always indicate 
the final departure of winter, for it often happens many 
times during that season that our river is entirely free 
from ice, and so also in great part the lakes. But the 
migrations of water fowl to points above, are a certain 
forerunner of the final dissolution of the icy bands. 
" One swallow does not make a summer,** nor is it certain 
that the warm breezes of spring will surely follow the 
first flocks of wild ducks. But as their course is north- 
ward, and their object the breeding grounds, the sway of 
winter must be broken to enable them to accomplish 
what they are in search of. The commencement of their 
flights usually is early in March, but this depends upon 
the character of the season. 

Wild geese are less numerous than the ducks. They 
number about twenty in a flock, and always fly with mili- 



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tary precision. They range themselves along two sides 
of a triangle, so as to constitute a wedge, and cleave the 
air with greater facility. A general or leader always pre- 
cedes, and they obey the democratic doctrine of rotation 
in office, the rear being allowed at intervals to overtake 
the van and change with it. 

Ducks are not of so orderly a disposition, but migrate 
in more straggling bodies. They fly with necks stretched 
out in a straight line with the body, and feet drawn up, 
so as to offer least resistance to the air ; and it is astonish- 
ing how rapidly they cut their liquid way, and how long 
sustained is their flight. 

Swans are less often seen, but I find mention in my 
note-books of their appearance March 31, 1836, and in 
other years. Capt. Luther Harvey, of Monroe, tells me 
they were formerly quite numerous in the bays of the 
lakes. 1 do not think that either swans or geese now 
alight in our river. Ducks frequent the bays and inden. 
tures of the stream in great numbers, even in the vicinity 
of settlements, but where they are a good musket-shot 
from shore, though out of reach of the current. Here 
they swim about and dive at a generally safe distance 
from sportsmen, who watch for such stragglers as are 
tempted by the facilities for feeding to approach nearer. 
The sportsman often hides successfully behind some ob- 
ject on the shore, where, protected from observation, he 
is enabled to make game of many unwary ones. Among 
these birds are some teals. These are so watchful and 
lively as to dive at the flash, and thus escape even the 
well-aimed ball. 

One of my sporting neighbors practises a mode of de- 
ception which is new to me. In the early spring, when 
ice is floating down in large, irregular masses from the 


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lakes above, dotting the whole surface of the water, he 
converts his canoe into a mimic cake of ice by stretching 
a sheet over the front. Ensconced behind this, he floats 
down along with the moving masses, and is often enabled 
to get into the very midst of a flock before they have 
warning of the trick. 

During a cold winter many years ago, the French and 
half-breeds of Presque Isle found geese so frozen to the 
ice that they caught them in great numbers. Thirty or 
forty years ago, I am told, ducks were so numerous in 
Maumee Bay, and so fat on the wild rice, that they were 
speared by thousands. 

Capt. Luther Harvey relates that in the early days, 
soon after the war of 1812, swans and brants occasionally 
visited the marshes at the west end of Lake Erie. One 
day a pair of brants came to his farm and settled down 
among his geese, where they remained for two weeks, and 
until they were shot by a boy. They became so tame 
that he could approach them within twenty feet. They 
partook of the corn distributed to the other fowls, eyeing 
him suspiciously and keeping a little off, but not flying 
away. They were beautiful birds, slenderer than the 
geese, white, with black on ends of tail and wings, and a 
black spot on the shoulder. From the description I con- 
clude that they were the white brant, or snow-goose 
{Anser hyperboreus), a rarer bird than the common brant 
(which is gray), and whose breeding-grounds are well up 
to the Arctic seas. 

Of the large family of Natatores the wide, encircling 
waters of our peninsula furnish a greater number of spe- 
cies than any other portion of our continent. Specimens 
of most of them are in the State collection at the Uni- 


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versity of Michigan, deposited by the zoologists of the 
Natural History Survey, under Dr. Houghton. 

Among them is the celebrated canvas-back duck, so 
much sought by epicures, and fully equal to those which 
feed upon the wild celery of the Chesapeake. Detroit 
markets are well stocked with water fowl in great variety 
during the season. They get very fat in the fall on the 
wild rice that abounds hereabouts, but their numbers are 
rapidly diminishing. 

How different the life of these wild fowl from that of 
the domesticated kinds. The latter seldom range far 
from the hand that feeds them, and seek the protection 
of man. They have become essentially a land bird, living 
as much on shore as on the water, even when they have 
free access to pond or river. Wild ducks, on the con- 
trary, with few exceptions, do not visit the land except 
for incubation, feeding and sleeping on the wave. The 
domestic bird will not fly many rods without seeking 
rest ; the wild makes continuous journeys of many hun- 
dred miles. Yet tame ducks are sometimes enticed to join 
the flocks of their wild brethren. In fact, this happened 
with me so frequently some years ago, that I was forced 
to abandon the attempt to keep ducks in my pond. The 
near and open connection with the river, and the rice 
and other food with which it abounded, tempted the wild 
birds to resort thither, and the acquaintance which they 
formed with my domestic species proved too strong for 
the hitherto good habits of the latter. Having tasted 
the sweets of the wild liberty of their ancestors, they de- 
serted me, never to return. 

Among the winged frequenters of our river, the gull 
lives even more exclusively upon this element, alighting 
always in the water, as do many of the ocean birds. In- 


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deed, the sea-gull is not an uncommon visitor of its lake 
cousins, among whom its larger size and brilliant white 
plumage render it conspicuous. I am not aware of any 
land resort the gulls have in these parts, but on Lake 
Superior and Thunder Bay of Lake Huron I have seen 
isolated rocks — their breeding-places — covered with them 
in countless numbers, and the young are easily caught. 

The great Northern loon was formerly a frequenter of 
our river, but is now seldom seen here. It is still common 
in the small lakes and rivers distant from settlements, 
where I have often heard his cry in the coot of even- 
ing. What a weird, wild, lonely cry it is ! It may be 
near or far off, you cannot tell which. But the bird is 
very wild and difficult of approach. 

Of other birds that move in flocks during the spring 
season, we have our share of those two distinguished 
game birds, pigeons and quails. The former never ap- 
pear in this locality in such prodigious numbers as in 
territories further west, but they come in little squads 
numerous enough to afford excellent sport, and the mar- 
kets are amply supplied during their short stay. 

Quails abide with us during nearly the whole year, and 
visit familiarly our fields and homesteads. They are so 
tame as to allow man to approach within a very few feet, 
and it is an amusement to listen to their answer to calls 
made in imitation of their peculiar whistle. Their song 
consists of two or three clear whistling notes in rapid suc- 
cession, the last a little prolonged and on a higher key. 
One comes suddenly upon a bevy of quails in a morning 
walk over the fields or along the roads, when they will 
start up, almost from under your feet, with a sharp whirr 
of the wings 'and scuttle away in a low flight to a little 
further distance, perhaps to a neighboring fence, whence 


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they can watch and form an opinion of the intruder. 
Pretty things they are, round, plump, and very tooth- 
some when made acquainted with griddle and toast. 
Detroit journals of May, 1839, mention the phenomenon 
of a sudden, uncommon abundance of these birds in this 
neighborhood. So great were the numbers, and so fear- 
less were they of man, that many were knocked down in 
the streets with clubs and canes. 

Yet though such close attendants of field and home, 
quails are not easily tamed, and when caged retain to 
the last much of their native wildness and impatience of 
restraint. Even when hatched under a hen it has been 
found impossible to domesticate them. 

Of all the birds that visit us in flocks we love least to 
see the blackbirds, — those arrant thieves, that steal our 
corn and oats so pertinaciously. The river marshes 
afford such congenial habitats for these birds that their 
numbers scarcely diminish, notwithstanding the havoc 
made among them by the guns of boys and outraged 

They congregate by thousands in these river borders 
and coves, where they find a favorite food in the wild 
rice {Zizania aquaticd). The cove or pond near my farm- 
house, covering an area of some tWo or three acres, is 
nearly every season filled with this plant, and is often 
black with the birds. On firing, or throwing a stone into 
their ranks, they rise in dense flocks, with a loud rushing 
sound, fly a short distance, wheel about, and again settle 
to their repast ; or they collect in dense, black masses in 
a neighboring tree. Here they hold council over their 
misdeeds, or rather, it is probable, over the unauthor- 
ized insult to which, in their opinion, they have been sub- 
jected. The chatter is loud and incessant. 


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Woe betide our corn and. grain fields, when sufficiently 
advanced to tempt these voracious marauders ! Scare- 
crows are of temporary avail, but suspicion soon turns to 
contempt. Then shot-guns again give temporary relief, 
which lasts no longer than one can afford to hold patient 

As they are not game birds, sportsmen do not thin 
their ranks to supply the luxuries of the table. Yet they 
are eaten, and I can testify from experience that " four- 
and-twenty blackbirds baked in a pie ** are no mean 
"dish to set before a king.** At any rate, a sovereign 
Frenchman does not despise it. They are also " a dainty 
dish ** to another epicurean animal, the omnivorous hog. 
Often have my hogs enjoyed a rare treat, as I rambled, 
gun in hand, about my orchard bordering the pond, the 
hogs following and devouring the birds which I brought 
to the ground. 

The blackbirds come early, and are the last to depart, 
the sexes taking their departure in separate bands. 
There are two species, the males of one being distinguish- 
able by their red wing-covers. When congregated to 
talk over the question of departure they are very loqua- 
cious, the subject being discussed over and over again, 
with as much noise and confusion, but in a more friendly 
spirit, than attends many of our deliberative assem- 

Their gay, sociable, chatty dispositions are qualities not 
to be despised among the boon companions of our fields 
and river-side, and offer some amends for the mischief 
they do us. We know too that, like most of our birds, 
they are insectivorous, their food consisting of grubs, 
caterpillars, moths and beetles, as well as grain, and 
we may well believe that the mischief they accomplish 


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is more than compensated by habits and virtues of which 
we take little note. 

Wild turkeys were among the game birds of our neigh- 
borhood until the extension of the clearings drove them 
to more distant retreats. But even yet they occasion- 
ally approach the settlements. Recently a flock of them 
came into a piece of my enclosed woodland, a quarter of 
a mile only from the house. Here I would gladly have 
left them undisturbed, but they were discovered by pry- 
ing hunters, shot at, and driven away. Guns are becom- 
ing the terror and nuisance of our neighborhood. 

The wild turkey is considered one of the wildest of 
forest game, being much more difficult to get a shot at 
than a deer. Yet I not unfrequently flush them in my 
woodland rides. On one such occasion I came suddenly 
upon a hen turkey with a brood of young. The old bird 
flew upon a fallen tree, bristling its feathers at me in 
great rage, while the chicks dispersed and sought the 
cover of the nearest leaves and underwood. It was her 
mode of distracting my attention from her young. 
Springing at once from my horse, I without difficulty 
caught two of the little ones, carried them away in my 
pocket, and made an acceptable present of tfiem to one 
of my young friends. 

A gentleman living in one of the interior counties of the 
State, but little settled, vouches to me for the following 
fact, as showing how readily the wild bird may become 
a subject of domestication. A neighbor woman kept 
domestic fowls, and throwing corn to them daily, grad- 
ually decoyed a wild turkey into her yard. Associating 
with the domestic brood, and finding what an easy life 
they led, he became at length so tame that she actually 
caught and took possession of him. Whether he con- 


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tinued to live like a prince, or went to her pot, I did not 
learn, or have forgotten. 

Hawks and owls are among the birds of prey that 
make frequent visits to my poultry yard. The latter are 
seldom seen, as they avoid the light of day. The former 
are very bold in their approaches, and will allow a man 
to come within a few feet, if he have no gun. They are 
quick to learn the meaning of this subtle weapon. They 
are often conspicuous objects, as perched upon a tree in 
the fields, or upon a post of the fence, they auda- 
ciously survey the neighborhood, and calculate the 
chances of an attempt at robbery. Though these fellows 
have little to recommend them, in j)ublic estimation, 
except their fearlessness, I would willingly allow free 
license to enjoy their observations, and follow unmolested 
the life that nature has taught, but that some unusually 
bold and successful raid raises my resentment, followed 
by retaliation. I once shot one that had been thus 
depredating, breaking his wing, so that he could not fly. 
On my coming up he made no attempt at escape, and as 
I held him up by the wings, his large open beak, black, 
piercing eyes, and strong hooked claws gave him a very 
formidable appearance. There was a contempt of danger 
and a valor in the stem, restless eye, which followed my 
motions, that displayed the indomitable spirit of an 
Indian warrior, who may aptly be likened to a bird of 
prey ; untamable as the wild eagle of the mountain, and 
scorning the hand of mercy. I hung him up, in terror to 
the winged robbers of my cornfield. 

Did I not, thoughtlessly, by this very act — making 
even of his dead body a useful friend — acknowledge this 
creature's claim to protection ? How many of these 
lesser thieves may he not have captured. How many 


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mice and other cunning depredators may he not have 
destroyed, as his common and daily food, for every 
chicken which he occasionally regaled upon ? Nature is 
full of compensations, and did man better heed her 
lessons, he would find that many a creature he ruthlessly 
seeks to exterminate is one of his chiefest benefactors. 

Quite a variety of birds make their abode with us 
throughout the winter ; so that our fields and woods are 
far from cheerless, from the absence of animated life, 
during that cold season. 

The blue jay is a very constant attendant throughout 
the year, never leaving us for milder climes. But he is 
by no means so familiar as the robin, his actions showing 
rather a contempt for man, as an order of animals be- 
neath his notice. Nevertheless when snow covers the 
earth, and food is difficult to find, he will approach 
nearer the mansion, searching for such crumbs as may be 
thrown out. But he generally keeps aloof, and is more 
attracted by the grassy spots, bare- of snow, about the 
roots of trees. A gay and handsome bird he is, with his 
soldier-like, clean, blue-and-white uniform and feathery 
crest ; but his shrill voice has not even the music of the 
fife in it. 

Woodpeckers remain with us long in the autumn, and 
several kinds throughout the winter. 

Flocks of snow-birds — buntings — are visitants, but only 
occasional, through the winter, and usually as attend- 
ants upon a snow-storm. They are very sprightly and 
sociable, and of course are very cheering companions for 
sharp atmospheres and wintry blasts. They are the only 
non-resident birds that visit us only in the winter. Com- 
ing when other guests have deserted, they are like the 


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memories of sunny days, that cheer the heart in the 
winter of life. 

Robins have been reported as seen in my woods in the 
middle of December. There is a vulgar belief that dur- 
ing mild days they come out of the reeds and marshes, 
where they have winter habitats. It is certain that they 
put in an appearance here early in March but so do 
the bluebirds, which are well-known birds of passage. 
There can be little doubt that a few individual robins do 
occasionally remain all winter in our neighborhood, 
sheltering themselves in the dense woods and swales. 
Occasionally they leave their retreats so early in the 
spring, deceived by a passing mildness, that they are 
frozen to death by a sudden wintry turn. 

Our spring is made gay with the beautiful plumage of 
many birds, as well as by their songs. Those early and 
familiar favorites, the blue and yellow birds, and the 
orioles, never fail to be with us at this hopeful season, in 
great numbers ; cheering us with their notes of gladness, 
and, like winged flowers, anticipating the blossoms that 
shall soon clothe the garden and orchard with tints rival- 
ling their own. 

The bluebird is one of the earliest harbingers of 
spring, arriving early in March and remaining until No- 
vember. His services, too, are of a very practical kind, 
for he. devours multitudes of noxious insects, and nevei;, 
that I can discover, plunders the fruit. 

The still more brilliant scarlet tanager is a more shy 
and unfrequent visitor, and arrives later from his con- 
genial South. He delights, here at the North, to veil 
his beauties in the deeper woods. But his first compli- 
ments are paid nevertheless to the homestead ; where he 
flashes through the shrubbery like a glancing flame. He 

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soon retires to the thick woods, to bring up his family, 
and very early takes his departure. He belongs to a 
Brazilian family, and perhaps has not yet acquainted 
himself sufficiently with our harsh Northern tongue to 
become familiar. 

Another handsome bird is very common here, and he 
is among the most persistent of the winged thieves that 
prey upon our fruit. This is the cedar-bird, known also 
as the cherry-bird, from his remarkable fondness for 
cherries, which he devours in great quantities. I am 
willing to believe that even he repays the injury he does 
us, and possibly earns his guerdon by clearing the trees 
of canker-worms and insects that hide beneath the bark. 
His dress is very neat, and the French call him by the 
name of R^collet, from the color of his crest, which re- 
sembles the hood of that religious order, once so numer- 
ous in the New World. 

I have recently had the opportunity of a very interest- 
ing subject of study, — the habits of wild birds domesti- 
cated. An ingenious brother has constructed a mam- 
moth cage, which he has filled with **many birds of 
various kinds.** It is wonderful to see how well they 
agree, only now and then one being found that is quar- 
relsome or of an ugly disposition. Of this sort was a 
blackbird, who rapaciously snatched food from the other 
tenants, always greedy and careless of the rights and 
comforts of others. So neither in his wild nor domestic 
state does he make himself a favorite. He had a way of 
amusing himself that was in keeping with his character, — 
that of plucking the feathers off the breasts of his com- 
panions. In this manner he completely stripped a large 
chicken that had been confined to the cage for a few 


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A little Java sparrow affords much amusement, by a 
particular friendship he has formed with the robins. 
These birds are several times larger than he, but stand 
somewhat in awe of him. It is his custom to shelter 
himself from the cold at night by making use of the 
warmth of their bodies. This use is, in fact, somewhat 
compulsory, and is obtained by stratagem. He does it by 
hugging closely up to one of the robins ; the pressure 
forcing the bird to raise and extend a leg, in order to pre- 
serve his balance. The sparrow seizes this chance to 
slip in between the legs, and thus secures a warm downy 
covering for his bed. If unsuccessful in this expedient, 
he contrives by the use of his wings to get into his favor- 
ite position; for he is a determined little fellow, and 
does not readily abandon his undertakings. This spar- 
row is a very grave-looking bird, notwithstanding his 
facetious tricks. He has brilliant stripes of white under 
each ear, which look like shirt-collars, and a very large 
prominent bill, like the red Roman nose of a free liver. 
We name him the ** Bachelor." 

Most of the birds in this cage have been brought up 
together from the callow stage, and have become very 
familiar with each other. A male oriole and a female 
canary, being mateless, entered into a '* civil contract," 
and proceeded very diligently to build a nest. But the 
robins did not approve the match, and tore the nest to 
pieces as fast as it was constructed, scattering the ma- 
terials about the cage. 

How strong the breeding instinct is was shown on an- 
other occasion, among the canaries. A pair had con- 
structed a nest in their breeding cage, but from some 
cause failed to raise a brood. A friend having acci- 
dentally found a nest of yellow birds of unfledged young. 


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took two of them and dropped them into the empty nest. 
They were first espied by the male canary, who, after 
eyeing them awhile curiously, gave place to the female. 
She, with a motherly tenderness, at once accepted the gift, 
and thenceforth the happy pair adopted the little found- 
lings, and reared them to maturity, with many demon- 
strations of pleasure and affection. 

Most of the birds are made very tame by handling. 
This is particularly the case with the thrushes ; but they 
lose this tameness to man when kept confined to the 
cage. They also lose the power or inclination to sing 
when together. An indigo bird, a famous songster when 
in his solitary cage, so lost his vocal power, after a 
few weeks* intercourse with the birds, that it became 
necessary, after separating him, to set before him the ex- 
ample of the best vocalist among the canaries, before he 
recovered his lost art. 

Some time ago a large green parrot was added to our 
feathered family. He is a good talker, and amuses us 
with some extraordinary exhibitions of the faculty of 
speech and of mimicry. Like other individuals of this 
loquacious species, he pronounces quite plainly such 
familiar words and sentences as " Good-by,'* ** Polly wants 
a cracker,** etc. But what is more astonishing is the 
ease with which, like a child, he catches and imitates 
sounds heard for the first time. He soon learned to re- 
peat the names of every member of the family, including 
the servants. These he often rouses from the kitchen by 
loudly calling their names. Sometimes he varies his 
tones, from those of an old person to those of a child, 
with marvellous accuracy. 

He is fond of holding with himself long imaginary 
conversations. In these he will seem to ask questions. 


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to reply, and to dispute, deny and recriminate ; now 
in the gruff voice of a man, and now in the finer tones 
of a woman, getting quite warm in his earnestness. 

During this harangue few words may be distinctly 
uttered, but the whole has the character of a conversa- 
tion indistinctly heard, or which is listened to without 
taking note of the language used. In what fish-market 
this Billingsgate was learned we do not know. The 
persons from whom the bird was purchased had emi- 
grated, and from the frequent use of the word '* Califor- 
nia," by the bird, it is probable they had gon« to that 
country, and possibly the journey had been preceded by 
long, and perhaps angry, discussions on the subject. 

A gentleman resident in the city is owner of a parrot, 
of the African gray species, which is quite remarkable for 
his intelligent use of language. When his master comes 
home the bird recognizes his step, and calls out to him, 
" How do you do, old boy?" Being answered, " Pretty 
well," his response is, " All right." On his master's leav- 
ing the house he salutes him with, " Good-by, old boy,— 
come and kiss me good-by.** This bird also calls by 
name every member of the family. 

The speech of the parrot is ventriloquial. There ap- 
pears to be no motion of the beak or tongue, while a very 
perspicuous motion is observable in the throat. Indeed, 
the labial sounds are as distinctly articulated as any other, 
which would be a phenomenon indeed, if performed by a 
bird's beak. The curious orifice at the root of the latter 
may have something to do with this faculty, but I am 

not learned on the subject. 

Truly Yours. 


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" nor these alone, whose notes 

Nice fingered art must emulate in vain, 

But cawing rooks, and kites that swim sublime, 

In still repeated circles, screaming loud, 

The jay, the pie, and e'en the boding owl. 

That hails the rising moon, have charms for me." 



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I' WOULD supplement the foregoing account of my 
earlier experiences by a few more items, and a little 
further chat about the birds of my neighborhood. 

Mr. J. S. Tibbits, in a paper read before our Wayne 
County Pioneer Society, in 1874, alluding to the first set- 
tlement of the country, mentions among " the birds 
common in those early days," the eagle, turkey-buzzard, 
raven, hawk, owl, crow, turkey, partridge, duck, and 
wild goose. He says, ** The turkey-buzzard, which is sel- 
dom or never seen now, was common then. The crow 
did not make its appearance till a number of years after 
the first settlements were made.** 

I have several times, in years gone, seen the bald eagle, 
perched upon some tree on the banks, or sailing over 
the Lake Ste. Claire. The buzzard must have betaken 
himself to other latitudes for some good reason, known 
best to himself, before my arrival in 1835. With the 
crow {Corvus Aniericanus) I made better acquaintance. 
This bird, cousin-gerrnan to the blackbirds mentioned in 
the foregoing letter, is of much larger size, but of like 
social disposition. On my first coming to this county I 
was informed that the large, dusky birds seen occasionally 
high in air were ravens, and that the true crow was 
not found here. Yet I was aware at that time, that 
great precautions were used by farmers in the State of 
New York to protect their corn from the depredations 
of crows. The Genesee Farmer of 1867 says, " It is little 



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more than twenty years since the first crow crossed the 
Genesee River, westerly." The first appearance of crows 
in this neighborhood, that I have noted, was in the 
autumn of 1858. So it must have taken about a decade 
for their journey westward, from the Niagara to the De- 
troit, supposing they came from that quarter. 

An entry in my journal of November 12, 1858, states, 
" For a week past, large quantities of crows have made 
their appearance, coming over the river, from Canada, 
each morning, and returning about sun&et. They are in 
thousands, and wing their way in a narrow track that 
passes nearly over my homestead. They fly at great 
height generally, but sometimes descend within rifle dis- 
tance. They croak but little, and seem to be on business. 
Last evening the number was unusually large, and I ob- 
served that their point of departure seemed to be the oak 
grove in the rear of and not far from my house." I must 
here state that my residence is no longer upon the river, 
but about half a mile back, and nearer the woods. 

The evening was clear and moonlit, and I walked 
out into the grove, about nine o'clock, guided by the 
noise. There I found that several thousand birds had 
taken roost in the tallest trees. Something of importance 
was on their minds, for they kept up an incessant chatter, 
not their usual formal caw, A portion would now and 
then rise on the wing, in a flock, wheel around, and alight 
on a neighboring tree, all within a small circle. It was like 
the swarming of bees. Their notes were more varied than 
I had ever before heard. Besides the common caw would 
be an occasional chuckling sound, or warble, and now and 
then some words resembling " get out " ; whether this was 
addressed to me or to some offender among their own 
community, I could not tell. At times the mingling 


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voices made a medley resembling the concert of frogs. 
They seemed to be in ' high feather * ; which is probably 
their term for enjoyment. In the morning all were gone. 

Their diurnal passage of the river this year continued 
for several weeks, but the same roosting-places were not 
always selected. I have noted their re-appearance in the 
winters of 1861 and 1862, and of 1864 and 1865. In No- 
vember, 1865, I again noticed their passage overhead, 
crossing into Canada at sunrise, and returning to our side 
at night. 

The Detroit Free Press of March 21, 1867, notices 
the advent of crows for the two weeks past, in unprece- 
dented numbers, making in clouds for some rendezvous 
on the Canada side, and says a gentleman counted two 
thousand in two hours. 

My notes of March, 1869, thus again alludes to the re- 
turn of the crows, — an event always of peculiar interest 
to me : " For several days we have noticed unusual num- 
bers flying overhead. ' Last evening about five o'clock 
they began coming in flocks of several thousand, and 
settled down in the pine grove of my neighbor, where 
they remained all night. The pines were thickly planted 
and were about twenty feet high. About five o'clock 
the next morning they were astir, and for some fifteen 
minutes before their departure completed their toilettes 
amid an incessant uproar, and were off for breakfast. 
This evening at the same hour they again commenced 
their visitation, coming from the south and south-west, in 
long straggling files. All came to the pine grove, as be- 
fore, flying quite low, but after settling there for about 
a- half hour, changed their minds as to their night's quar- 
ters, and the main body rose and moved off to the tall 
trees on the outskirt of my woods. Here they clustered 


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on the tops, in black masses. These occasionally 
rose, and after sailing about settled again on the trees. 
Deputation after deputation continued to arrive, and 
all made for the pines, but finding their associates gone, 
they also steered their course to join the main body. 
About six o'clock all had assembled. Their united de- 
liberations now resulted in a resolution to return to the 
pines, where they settled down, apparently for the night, 
the taller trees in my adjoining grounds being occupied 
by sentries. Suddenly some roving mischief-maker let 
off a gun into their ranks. All now rose, and with angry 
clamor departed for the taller trees of my woodland. 
Not one remained. Half an hour later another gun 
frighted them from this roost, and compelled a retreat to 
a more distant camp. Here, as darkness fell, I made 
them a visit. Several trees were filled with them, in 
black clusters. Their object seemed to be rather the 
holding of a council than for a night's repose. Cer- 
tainly their whole time was occupied in talking, and the 
clamor at times was overpowering. At length a pause 
occurred in the general debate. One or two only contin- 
ued to hold forth ; after awhile others would break in 
and interrupt the orators. Now the whole assembly felt 
authorized to express their sentiments, which they did 
not fail to do, with the utmost vociferation. The excite- 
ment would have done credit to a political caucus. 

On this occasion, as I had observed on a former one, 
every few minutes a portion of the assembly rose, 
wheeled around in a large circle, and returned to their 
places. While this movement was taking place the 
tumult ceased, or fell to an occasional caw; when all were 
again together, the chatter once more became incessant. 
The noise occasioned by the mingling of so many throats 


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bore little resemblance to the harsh croak with which 
these birds accompany their flight by day. It was more 
like the hum of a multitude of human voices ; it was dif- 
ficult to resist the impression that such voices were really 
aiding the din. Several inferior animals also found imi- 
tators ; I could distinctly recognize the mew of the cat 
and the chirrup of the squirrel. 

My appearance created some distrust, which was not to 
be wondered at, after the affair of the guns. When I 
moved into sight from behind a tree the conversation 
ceased. After a little while a few voices began a kind of 
inquiring rfote, very plaintive and low ; doubtless asking 
my motive, and deprecating hostility. Frequently an 
entire cessation took place in the debate — a silent delib- 
eration — during which, for one or two minutes, no sound 
was heard, except the flapping of wings in the efforts of 
the birds to keep their places on the limbs, from which 
broken pieces were continually dropping. Though toler- 
ant of my presence, the assembly did not seem disposed 
to admit me to their councils. I have no doubt that the 
subjects discussed were of the utmost importance, and I 
would gladly have reported the speeches for the Free 
Press, had they furnished me an interpreter. 

For several succeeding nights the crows, to the great 
delight of my family, continued their visits to the pines, 
or to the taller trees in my grounds, but they held no 
more mass meetings. I hoped that these trees would 
form for them a secure retreat, and that the frequenters 
might become half domesticated, like the rooks of Eng- 
land. But some sporting characters again brought their 
ill-timed guns upon them, killed many, and drove the 
rest away, and they have gone to quarters unknown. 

What these creatures find to subsist upon, in quantity 


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sufficient for such numbers, is a mystery. They are sup- 
posed by some to consume the acorns, of which there is 
great abundance, but I have never observed them at this 
work, nor have I ever heard any blame attached to the 
crows, as depredators upon the corn and grain fields, in 
this State. They are naturally carnivorous, and consume 
grubs, the larvae of beetles and insects; perhaps also 
mice. Thus they are of real service to the farmer. 
These sources of supply being cut off in the cold season, 
it is said that they resort to carrion. But how they man- 
age to find sufficient of this, or any other food, to sustain 
life in winter is unexplained. A mile or more back from 
the river are several slaughter-houses, and in the fall 
crows may be seen, at almost all hours, in their vicinity. 
Garbage and the carcasses of animals, that are often ex- 
posed in the fields, without the city, may also attract 
them. But why their so regular transits of the river I 
have not been able to discover. 

On the occasion of their visits to this vicinity, in the 
winter of 1864-5, there was an enclosed lot near my resi- 
dence, which had been recently manured with garbage 
from the slaughter-houses. The crows were attracted to 
this lot, and for many days settled there in considerable 
squads. They ranged themselves about the heaps, as I 
have often seen turkey-buzzards do, apparently satisfied 
to be near such food, but though I watched them often, 
I never once saw any engaged in eating. Late in the 
afternoons these settled upon the pines before mentioned, 
where they kept noisy council until far into the evening, 
when all returned into Canada. Unless they live upon 
smell, as the fairies do, they must find their chief subsist- 
ence somewhere in Her Majesty's dominions. 

The crow is one of the few birds that are attendants 


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upon civilization, continuing about the settlements of 
man all the year. His resemblance to the rooks of Old 
England, who make their nests under the protection of 
lordly mansions, and roam undisturbed meadow and corn- 
field, gives to our bird additional interest. I must how- 
ever tell the whole truth, and am compelled to admit that 
these black friends of mine were detected by a neighbor 
depredating upon his young chickens. I was incredulous, 
until convinced by the contents of the stomach. A few 
days afterwards a young crow fell into my hands, and I 
confined him in a cage in my orchard. Here he was 
visited by the parent bird, who was actually seen carrying 
to her captive child portions of the body of a chicken. 
After these disclosures I no longer felt disposed to give 
the crow such free title as before. At the same time I 
remember in their favor that they destroy cutworms and 
many things injurious to man, and are perhaps, to a cer- 
tain degree, scavengers. I will not therefore withdraw 
my protection, because of their occasional theft of things 
that we value. 

Finally, I love the crow for the independence of his 
character. He keeps aloof from the servile throngs that 
crowd around the habitations of men. Like the latter, he 
has his parliaments, but he keeps his own counsel, and 
cares nothing for those who differ from him. 

" He sees that this great roundabout, 
The world, with all its motley rout, 
Church, army, physic, law, 
Its customs and its businesses, 
Is no concern at all of his, 
And says — ^what says he ? — caw I " * 

* Cowper. 

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I much regret that wild turkeys have now been all 
driven from this region by hunters. It has always 
seemed to me that this bird would be our country's much 
more appropriate emblem than the eagle. It certainly 
represents our land better, and the national character 
as it should be. The turkey was once common over all 
the United States, and is peculiar to North America. 
The eagle is found all over the world, and is peculiar to 
no one country. It was the national bird of ancient 
Rome, and is now of the almost equally extended empire 
of Russia, as well as* of other lesser States. The eagle is 
a bird of prey, does no service to man, nOr does it pos- 
sess any noble qualities that compensate for the cruelty 
and rapacity which are its nature. It is the inferior in 
courage of many birds of far less pretension. It is a self- 
ish bird, living for himself and by himself alone. The 
turkey loves society and friendship ; he is devoted to liis 
clan, who consort together in deliberative assemblies, and 
act with that common consent which is the basis of demo- 
cratic government. The turkey lives only on the fruits 
of the earth, wherein he appropriately symbolizes the 
agricultural character of our people. Even in the white- 
ness and sweetness of its flesh, it is significant of the 
good things in store for the citizens of a mild, paternal 
government, that does not thrive by the woes of others. 
It is a proud bird, too, as conscious of its merits, and in 
the lustre and beauty of its plumage yields the palm to 
no feathered creature. Those who see his form only 
among the stuffed specimens of a museum have but a 
very imperfect idea of the matchless beauty, the blended 
shades and hues, and the noble bearing of the wild bird 
in his prime, and in his native haunts. 

It may be objected that so timid a creature does not 


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represent the bold and active element of national char- 
acter. But why should ferocity be paramount to the 
peaceful qualities ? To be bold in defence of its rights, 
and in its protecting care over its offspring, but not ag- 
gressive upon the rights of others ; to be diligent in the 
useful, and not disregardful of the ornamental, are qual- 
ities which are paramount in the turkey. They are 
worthy of any creature, and would befit the character of 
a just nation. 

We have had enough of '* spread-eagle " boasting over 
our country's greatness 'and glory. That kind of vanity 
has been humbled, and it would be well if, with the 
emblem, it was repudiated altogether. Franklin, phi- 
losopher as well as statesman, saw the inappropriateness 
of the eagle as the emblem of his country, and proposed 
the rattlesnake — an exclusively American animal, and 
who always gives warning before he strikes. But a rep- 
tile has not sufficient dignity for so important a purpose. 
The turkey equally is exclusively American, and, while 
he combines, in the highest degree, the useful and the 
beautiful, is free from any of those qualities which in a 
people cast a stain upon the national honor. 

Of birds of America that collect in large flocks none 
exceed in marvellous numbers the pigeon. Most persons 
have heard about the immense roosts of this bird in some 
of the sparsely settled portions of the West, and it has 
been well known for years that they had one of their 
favorite roosting-places in this State. But the great 
pigeon-roost of 1874, in Benzie County, so far transcends 
any other of which I ever read or heard, that I cannot 
forbear transcribing for this chapter some graphic por- 
tions of a letter to the New York Worlds by a corres- 


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pondent from Frankfort, Michigan, dated June 25, 1874. 
He says : 

** The number of the birds this spring has exceeded 
even anything recorded in the traditions of hunters and 
oldest inhabitants. The miraculous flight of quails that 
fell by the camp of the Israelites, a day's journey on this 
side and a day's journey on the other side, and two 
cubits high upon the face of the earth, is as nothing to 
the * Betsey River nesting.* Imagine if you can a tract 
of land about sixteen miles long and three wide, where 
every bough is occupied by a dozen nests and a hundred 
birds ; where the air whirrs from dawn till dark with 
ceaseless wings ; where the flights that settle cover 
square acres with a living carpet ; where from 250 to 400 
men have for six weeks or more been engaged in trap- 
ping and killing without cessation, and yet not made the 
numbers appreciably less; imagine 50 square miles of 
pigeons, and that is the scene. Almost daily armies of 
re-enforcements fly northward from far-away Kentucky 
and Missouri, the beat of whose wings and whose count- 
less numbers obscure the sky, and emit a hollow roar, as 
if a tornado or thunder-storm were -approaching. 

" There are three regular * flights * a day — two * tom 
flights ' and one * hen flight ! ' At early dawn the male 
birds set out, flying to the east and north to seek a break- 
fast of seeds and berries, 10, 20, or 50 miles away, and by 
six or half-past six the sky is black with the departing 
birds. They tower up in great armies to a considerable 
height, each sheet of birds — sheet is the word that best 
describes them — wavering a moment like the needle of 
the compass when disturbed, then taking flight in the 
appointed direction, with a unanimity and evenness of 
speed that would make one believe that every bird was 


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animated by the same impulse at the same instant. An 
hour later not a bird is to be seen, but toward 8 o'clock 
the rush of the returning armies is heard. Squadron 
after squadron arrives, cleaving the air with unwearied 
wing and unfailing sense, fluttering, wheeling and de- 
scending, each division over its own district, each bird 
over the nest of its faithful mate. As * tom ' after 
' tom * returns to take his trick at the domestic helm, 
* hen * after * hen * rises upward, and the armies of the 
Amazons go out to the East and North. Towards 9 
o'clock the scene is indescribable. It is a very atmos- 
phere of wings ; earth and forest have been converted into 
feathers, and the eye gazes down vistas of pigeons to far 
horizons of squab pies and salmis de tourtes sauvages, 

"By and by the last female departs, and the meek 
males remain incubating with a faithfulness and amenabil- 
ity to domestic discipline that would delight the sternest 
unfeathered sister. In the middle of the afternoon the 
hens return and the toms depart to make an evening of it, 
returning before or about sunset. The late birds, who 
stay out till dusk, having apparently the latch-key to their 
several nests, seem bothered and fly very low, sweeping 
along the ground till they get their bearings. 

" Then begins such a slaughter as marked the coup d'etat, 
Poles and clubs are the weapons, and at every sweep a 
dozen birds, brained, crippled or maimed, tumble to the 
earth. Scarcely less simple and efficient is the practice of 
raking them down at night with poles, from the lower 
branches where they roost. The foxes and, later, the hogs 
fatten on the ungathered hecatombs that are left dead or 
to die in the grass. T . ." The writer, after detailing 
other and the principal modes of capturing this game, 
adds : " The New York State Sportsmen's Association has 


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taken 40,000 or 45,000 live birds from Frankfort, and 
Fisher & Sons as many more, alive and dead, and as for 
small dealers, it is impossible to say how many hundreds 
of barrels and coops they sent away weekly.*' 

Whether the lesser song birds favor this neighborhood 
in any unusual degree I am unable to say, nor will I 
undertake any extended mention of these universal favor- 
ites of the wood, field and door-yard ; which would swell 
my meagre notes into a treatise. Only let it be under- 
stood, that the little I do say falls very far below the 
standard of their merit and the admiration they excite. 

It is certain that we have occasionally song birds of 
more Southern habits. Possibly the extraordinary heat 
which sometimes attends our summers, and the increased 
number of insects then called forth, but more the charm 
of our Northern woods and waters, are the prevailing in- 
ducements to these extended journeys. 

Among these Southern guests is the well-known mock- 
ing-bird {Orpheus polyglottus), which is seen, though but 
rarely, in this State. The powers of our Northern, or 
" French mocking-bird,** more commonly known as the 
brown thrush or thrasher, and ferruginous thrush {Orpheus 
rufus), certainly compare most favorably with those of his 
Southern cousin, and are not appreciated to the extent, it 
seems to me, which they deserve. There is among nat- 
uralists some difference of opinion, whether this bird is an 
imitator, or his song native and only varied. The latter 
is the generally received conclusion. It may seem strange 
there should be any difficulty in determining the fact. 
The natural song of this thrush is- so near an approach to 
the cries of many animals, and even the voice of man, 
and so many changes are rung by different individuals 
or by the same at different times, that it is not easy to 


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distinguish between what is native and what is acquired. 
I believe that he is a bom mimic, as well as somewhat of 
a joker. 

His notes are exceedingly joyous and playful, and full 
of a sort of contemptuous triumph, as though he sought 
to flout the rest of the world. May is his nuptial month, 
and it is at this period he most delights us with his varied 
melody and wild song. The nesting is done in some low, 
sweet copse, hidden closely from the eye of man, but he 
lauds himself in the full sight of day. In the early morn- 
ing and evening particularly he makes the grove vocal, 
and drowns the song of other birds. Mounting the top- 
niost spray of the tallest tree in the vicinity of his lowly 
home, he glances proudly around, and pours out his feel- 
ings in a strain somewhat like this, — " chick, chick, chick, 
— look here, look here ! wheu .... u, — what, what, you 
did, you did, — tewee, tewee, (a soft treble) — where, where, 
where! whi-r-r-e-e, (a whistle) — wh-i-r-r .... up. See 
here, see here, — ho I who are ye ? who are ye?" 

Going out one morning at sunrise I was greeted in this 
manner: " What, what ! Up so early ? up so early ! 
Whew ! ha, ha, ha, ha, — go to bed again — to bed again. 
You will ? you will ? ha, ha, wh-e-w ! " All the while I 
could not catch sight of the saucy rascal, who from a lofty, 
but leafy tree top thus jeered over my head at lazy man, 
who spends in sluggard slumber those precious hours of 
early day which are the very carnival time of these happy 

This kind of rhapsody is continued many minutes — 
sometimes a full half hour — at a stretch. Then he quits, 
only to find a new station and renew his wild refrain. 
As soon as the young are hatched the cares of family are 
a sad drawback to his gayety ; superseded, perhaps, by a 


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deeper joy. At least his glad strains are heard at long 
intervals, and are only feebly renewed until the next 
nuptial season. But even this short season of song es- 
tablishes for this mock-bird of the North a place in our 
homage second to no other of our American choristers. 
He is more than the rival of the Southern mocking-bird. 

During the summer he is a frequent visitor to my 
lawn, on the lookout for worms. Here he hops about, 
almost as familiarly as the robins, contrasting with their 
plump, well-to-do, cheery air his more slender and grace- 
ful figure and quaker suit of sober brown. Though 
easily tamed, he loses taste for his ambitious perform- 
ances when caged. The Southern bird, on the contrary, 
is very socially inclined, whether he be free or caged, and 
has a natural tendency to domestication. 

I will barely mention one other bird which is named 
among our mockers — the cat-bird {Orpheus carolinensis)* 
Aside from its harsh mew and other discordant notes, it 
has a peculiarly sweet, low song of its own, which few 
who note its harsh cry are aware of. 

Birds, unfortunately, have often found their worst 
enemy in man, though it is to be hoped that time has 
nearly gone by. Game laws are now common in most of 
the States, regulating by legal enactment the seasons 
when, and the kinds of birds that may be killed for food 
or sport. At last, Michigan has gone further still in the 
right direction, by a law which prohibits at all times the 
destruction of "song birds.*' If all cultivators of the 
soil, as well as all lovers of birds, will be convinced of the 
wisdom of this law and will see it enforced, we shall sopn 
have full light on the mooted question, how far the little 
plunderers of our grain and fruits are our real friends. 
In this matter the Germans have shown much practical 


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Wisdom, their laws aflfording protection to nearly all the 
species of birds common to that country, and leaving no 
useful bird outlawed. 

Almost all birds are known to be insectivorous, and in 
by far the larger number their chief food is animal and 
not vegetable. If the records of those investigators who 
pretend to accurate computations of the amount that 
birds consume are reliable, it is almost incredible the 
number of insect pests which are thus got rid of. It de- 
fies calculation. We have statements like these: A family 
of jays, with five young, requires for its commissariat, in a 
season of one hundred days, 20,000 insects ; * Bradley, 
an English writer, mentions watching a nest of birds and 
discovering that 500 caterpillars were consumed in one 
day ; ' the titmouse or chicadee is computed to destroy 
over 200,000 eggs alone of noxious insects in a year. 

Birds get at insects that man, with all his arts of 
destruction, cannot reach ; on the topmost boughs — the 
under side of leaves — in the crevices of bark — within the 
tree itself — beneath the surface of the soil. If those who 
kill birds that they chance to find in their grain fields or 
fruit gardens will examine their crops, it will generally be 
found that worms, insects and larvae constitute the prin- 
cipal contents, greatly predominating over the vegetable 
portions. With few exceptions the young of all birds are 
fed with this kind of animal food. Robins and thrushes, 
who make so free with some of our fruits, certainly do 
not make these their chief food even at such times. The 
whole summer long they are busily consuming our insect 
foes, and when we see them upon our lawns they are 
always diligently occupied in searching for and tugging 
at the worms which infest the roots of grasses. 

Dr. Trimble has devoted an active life to the discovery 


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of the means of getting rid of the curculios and other 
insects that are so destructive to fruits. Hear what he 
says of the cedar-bird, that persistent plunderer of our 
finest cherries, and who receives no mercy at the hands 
of fruit lovers. " The cedar-bird, though it is a great 
consumer of cherries and berries, feeds as freely on in- 
sects. Canker-worms, beetles and other insects, injurious 
to the foliage of fruit and shade trees, are devoured in 
vast numbers by these birds. I have found as many as 
thirty-six young canker-worms in the stomach of one, and 
I have known companies of these birds come after a 
species of canker-worm on a cherry tree several times 
every day for two weeks during the last summer ; and 
when I saw them afterwards feeding upon the cherries, 
I felt that they had saved the crop and were entitled to a 
part of it.** 

But while our song birds sometimes receive legal pro- 
tection against wholesale slaughter, other kinds, which 
do not come under that appellation, are left without the 
pale. The popular voice condemns the crow and the 
blackbird. Legislatures have even offered rewards for 
their destruction, together with woodpeckers and other 
birds that are generally supposed to be injurious to the 
crops ; and the whole family of hawks find in man a most 
inveterate enemy. This discrimination is hardly fair to 
the poor beings that suffer from it, and its wisdom is at 
least very doubtful. 

The food of these, as of most birds, is almost exclusively 
animal. Naturalists who have studied the habits and ex- 
amined the stomachs and crops, speak in their favor, as 
the friends rather than the enemies of man, — even those 
most proscribed by him. They are proved to be more 
destructive to the pests of the planter than to his fruits 


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and seeds. Their structure, too, confirms this judgment. 
I think it a safe rule that birds of all kinds are of greater 
benefit than injury to man, and are entitled to his pro- 
tection, until experience shall have conclusively shown 
the contrary. 

Audubon defends the crow, which, he says, " devours 
myriads of grubs every day in the year, that might lay 
waste the farmer's fields ; it destroys quadrupeds innu- 
merable, every one of which is an enemy to his poultry 
and his flocks. " 

Insects have been found to increase in proportion as 
birds have been proscribed by public opinion and by law ; 
so that, in some instances, counter legislation has become 
necessary. This was the case with the rook in England 
— a bird whose habits resemble those of our crow. 
Now he enjoys protection from the law, and is every- 
where the welcome guest of the people. Let such as 
condemn the birds which they sometimes see eating 
their corn or fruits, read "The Birds of Killingworth." 
Longfellow's poem is no mere poetic fiction, but illus- 
trates a truth which will soon come home to all who, 
in the spirit of the old Spaniards, cut down their trees, 
because they harbored the birds that consume their grain. 
Even in this country, and near home, we have had exam- 
ples of this kind of wisdom. I trust to see Michigan — 
already in many things in the van of public opinion — so 
amend her law as to include under its protection all the 
birds that now suffer unjustly from its real or implied 
proscription.* But still more, I trust to the advance of 
an enlightened public opinion, and therefore throw in 
my mite towards a just decision. 

In our plea for the birds shall we make an exception of 
the European sparrow ? Imported into New York City 


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some twenty-five years ago, it is said they cleared the 
trees in the parks of caterpillars that had long greatly in- 
fested them. I have felt disposed to question the fact, 
from my observations here. They had full opportunity 
to do the same service to my linden trees, but did not. 
They must have found America a congenial home, for 
they have spread with wonderful rapidity, until now few 
parts of the country are without them. Wherever these 
saucy little fellows appear they take undisputed posses- 
sion, driving out other birds, and asserting their superior 
claims with mettlesome vivacity. They enliven the city 
streets with their pert ways. They would leave the 
farmer no grain to harvest, if it were not that they prefer 
city life to country. No one seems to know whether 
they have any good to balance their evil qualities, and 
public opinion universally condemns them. I am happily 
able to give one recent and notable instance of their in- 
sectivorous habit. During the year 1885, the seventeen- 
year locusts made their appearance in some of their old 
haunts, and, among other places, in the vicinity of Wash- 
ington. A scientific gentleman there watched the pro- 
ceedings of the sparrows. He saw that they devoured 
the insects voraciously, and at first whole. After awhile, 
finding the supply so considerable, they satisfied them- 
selves with thd bodies only, rejecting the wings and legs. 
But the numbers being great and the birds satiated, they 
began to content themselves with the heads only. In 
this way they succeeded in clearing the whole district of a 
pest that certainly would have proved a much more for- 
midable enemy than its destroyers. 

Much as we see of the birds, and many as are the 
beautifuJ things told about them by such admirers as 
Audubon, Wilson, and a host of lesser lovers, there 


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is still enough that is unknown in their history to 
arouse the interest of fresh observers. Could we, like 
Prince Ahmed, of the fairy tale, understand the lan- 
guage of these beings of the air, how much would their 
song and twitter convey to us of the hidden mysteries of 
their lives ! 

We know little about their courtships, the tender 
communications of the married and the parental pair, 
perhaps of their lovers* quarrels. For, though patterns 
of conjugal fidelity, there are exceptions to the rule, 
and known instances of jealousy and of unfaithfulness. 
Have they Caudles among them too ? How do they de- 
cide in selecting sites for their nests? We know that 
many days of anxious search and inquiry are often con- 
sumed in this business, and that individuals of the same 
species do not follow an unvarying instinct. Which of 
the lovers yields to the other, when there is difference of 
opinion ? We will presume that the gallantry of the 
husband abandons the decision to his chosen mate, else 
why are these questions so readily settled and with so 
little debate ? Does the married pair continue faithful 
to their early love, during all the seasons that follow, and 
do they always return — we know many do — to the same 
nests? How are their deliberations conducted and 
decisions arrived at, when, contemplating their long 
journeys, they hold council together? What unknown 
law or instinct regulates these migrations, and " guides 
through the pathless air their certain flight ? " Have they 
a correcter prescience than we, wise men, of the future, 
of coming storms, of earlier or later renewals of the 
spring ? Will they not some time impart to us this secret 
and important knowledge ? 

It may be that man is debarred from this kind of in- 


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sight until he shall return to the innocence of that 
happy era of which the poet tells us : 

** When time was young, 
And birds conversed as well as sung ; *' 

when their conversation — he means to say — was under- 
stood by human ears ; for even now they talk, and very 
volubly, with each other. And even now we are on the 
road to a more perfect knowledge, and have learned 
enough of their language and ways to stimulate further 
inquiries and keep alive enthusiasm. 

It is wonderful how easily most birds may be tamed. 
Whether or not those about my home, protected by the 
law of the place, acknowledge more emphatically the 
fact that they have here a safe asylum, certain it is that 
they are very fearless and almost domesticated. Cher- 
ries and favorite fruits suffer more, in consequence, but 
such thefts are richly compensated by the crowd of song- 
sters that charm us with their thousand winning ways. 

Even old birds are easily caught, and it is almost a 
daily occurrence, during the breeding season, that half- 
fledged youngsters are brought into the house by some 
of the family, fed and nursed for a few days, and sent 
forth into their own world again. Almost any young 
bird will scarcely make the attempt to escape after be- 
ing held a few minutes in the hand, his feathers stroked, 
and food given him. A five-minutes petting makes him 
one of us. The old birds are naturally more wary, but 
let suspicion once be removed, and they are readily 
brought to recognize human kindness. 

A male of that shy family, the cherry-bird, was capt- 
ured in my grounds, on the very scene of his pilferings. 
It was found that he had been wounded, though slightly, 


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yet in such a manner that one wing had become glued 
to his side by the dried gore, and was useless. He was 
taken in charge by a lady of the household, bathed with 
warm water, and fed with a few worms. He was at once 
reconciled to his captor, ate ravenously the congenial 
food, sipped water from his nurse's mouth, and sat upon 
her finger, as familiarly as if they had been acquainted 
for months, instead of minutes. 

The result of this kind and brief attention exhibits in 
a remarkable manner the readiness with which gratitude 
may be awakened in the bird breast. The lady friend 
after her nursing care, took him to the balcony of an 
open window where the sun was shining, to diy his 
drenched feathers. Here she began tossing him on her 
finger and fluttering his wings. The impulse of his sud- 
denly regained powers of flight was too strong to be re- 
sisted, and the bird made speedy use of his wings to fly 
to a neighboring tree. There he sat a few moments, 
trimming himself ; then, as if conscious of the French 
leave he had taken, he flew back to his protector, 
alighted on her shoulder, and put his beak to her face, 
as if in penitence for his forgetfulness ; but upon her at- 
tempting to enter the house, he again made his adieu 
and disappeared. But gratitude was not yet expended. 
The next day, as his nurse stood in the window, he came 
and alighted on the balcony, almost within reach, but he 
would not permit nearer approach ; his old wariness was 
returning, and on the attempt being made to capture 
him, took his departure and was seen no more. 

Every one loves the birds, but it is only one who 
truly loves and revels in country pleasures that appreci- 
ates to the full this source of enjoyment. Birds are the 
earliest acquaintances that greet us in the spring, when 


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no feeling heart can resist their nuptial notes of gladness. 
They continue to haunt our homes, and flit about our 
gardens and copses, still uttering their songs, in some- 
what soberer strains, during the long days of summer; 
and some remain to cheer that bleak season, when so 
much of nature is dormant, becoming more familiar with 
us as they more need our care. 

Wherever heard or seen, they communicate to our 
bosoms the joy which inspires their songs, and they 
teach us heedful lessons of conjugal love and domestic 
felicity. How large a share indeed of the charm of 
rural life is due to the birds ! 


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" Himself to Nature's heart so near 
That all her voices in his ear 
Of beast or bird had meanings clear." 


ik every family should have a dog (or a cat or a parrot) ; it is 
\g a perpetual baby ; it is the plaything and crony of the whole 
t keeps them all young." — Dr. John Brown. 


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Springwells, , 1 85 1. 

DEAR TOM : — I am not a naturalist, but am by no 
means indifferent to the brute creation around me, 
and such facts and observations as I have garnered, in 
this my distant home, are heartily at your service. 

Beasts of prey have been far from numerous in this 
neighborhood for many years. Yet we hear occasionally 
of their depredations. There are in this county swamps 
which are the resort of bears, and from which they some- 
times emerge upon the settlements, stealing a pig or two. 

The Detroit journals once in a while give, for the morn- 
ing entertainment of their readers, accounts of the ma- 
rauding exploits of these animals, within five or six miles 
of the city. 

In 1839, during a night which I passed at the village of 
New Port, on St. Clair River, several bears visited the 
place, their tracks being plainly visible in the streets the 
next morning.- They are still quite common about the 
remoter settlements. 

While encamped in the woods of Michigan, at many 
places I have heard ** the wolf's long howl," but never 
caught a sight of the *' varmints.** Large bounties of- 
fered by most of the counties for their scalps have so re- 
duced their numbers, that, except in the extreme settle- 
ments, we seldom hear of any depredations committed 
by them. Sheep in the vicinity of our towns suffer more 
from dogs than from their wilder cousins. 



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Another of the disturbing cries of the remoter forests is 
that of the lynx. It is so like the voice of a man that 
I have been deceived by it, while following a newly 
blazed township line, and made frequent rests, answer- 
ing back, under the impression that some man had lost 
his way, and was endeavoring to overtake me. The 
animal was indeed following our trail, stopping and ut- 
tering his cries at each pausing place, attracted probably 
by the scent of the provender we carried in our knapsacks. 

Such fierce brutes as panthers and catamounts are but 
little known in Michigan, even in the wilder portions of the 
upper peninsula. As to still fiercer brutes, every school- 
boy knows that the poet Campbell had no zoological 
authority for his line : 

" On Erie's banks where tigers steal along." 

\iv\^^% panthers were intended, this is rather a strain even 
upon the poetic license. 

In my experience of many nights passed in the soli- 
tudes of Lake Superior, my camp was never disturbed 
by the presence of wild animals, nor suffered from their 
thefts ; which is more than I can say for the lords of 
creation, white or red. 

In the fall of 1850, while at Yankee-Springs, in Barry 
Co., a hunter brought into the village a wild-cat which he 
had just shot. It -measured three feet from snout to end 
of tail ! The animal measured in height, standing, eigh- 
teen inches. Color of back a dark gray; belly and 
thighs spotted, like a lynx. Its resemblance to the do- 
mestic cat is most striking, particularly in the face, but 
the tail of the wild animal is very dissimilar, being only 
three inches in length. The man said he shot it on the 
openings, a mile from the village; that being intent 


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upon a deer, he at first supposed the catamount to be a 
rabbit. The cat was hunting mice, and was equally ob- 
livious of the man's presence. 

The wolverene, which has given a pseudonym to the 
inhabitants of Michigan, might on that account be sup- 
posed to abound in the State. But the fact is, the animal 
is extremely rare. It may have been, and probably was, 
once numerous, since the beaver and muskrat, which are 
its prey, abounded in our rivers and marshes. 

Not long ago I saw the stuffed skin of a wolverene at 
a fur store in Detroit. It was considered a great curi- 
osity, on account of the rarity of this fierce quadruped. 
Some of the oldest inhabitants, even that old fur-trader, 
James Abbott, had never before seen one. This skin, 
which was brought from Lake Superior, measured, from 
snout to extremity of tail, 3 feet 10 inches ; the tail be- 
ing about 8 inches and very bushy. The hair is coarse, 
• but long and brushy, like that of a bear. Indeed, the 
resemblance to that animal is quite close in some par- 
ticulars. Its color is mottled brown and black, with a 
patch of white under throat and breast. The claws are 
long, sharp, and much hooked, the legs stout and hairy 
down to the claws, like those of a bear, and the hind 
feet, like the bear's, are plantigrade. The snout appears 
to be long and tapering, but from the imperfect manner 
in which this specimen was preserved, this feature could 
not be accurately determined. I have been told by an 
Indian that it climbs trees as the bear does, which from 
the similarity of its structure seems probable. 

Though not large, this beast is very formidable ; its 
great strength and ferocity making it a terror to animals 
larger than itself. It is known to the French voyageurs 


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as the carcajou, — probably a corruption of its Indian 

Among predatory animals, the fox had not been en- 
tirely extirpated from these parts at the time of my first 
residence. I saw in 1836, in the sandy lands at Spring- 
wells, several fox holes, and could hear the bark of the 
inmates, but sly Reynard kept himself concealed. The 
holes were a curiosity, being large enough almost to 
admit a man, and running to a considerable distance, 
judging from the large heaps of sand collected about the 
mouth. Master John, one of my young neighbors, who 
showed them to me, thinks they all terminate in an ex- 
tensive apartment, — the social parlor of the clan. 

Quite recently a red fox established a hiding-place 
under the portico of my house, from whence he made 
sundry destructive raids into the hen-roosts. 

Among the rarest of animals sought for their fur is the 
silver-gray fox. Its skin commands a high price, and is 
said to be particularly esteemed by the nobility of 
Russia. I saw recently the skin of one of those foxes, 
caught in Michigan. Its gray fur is tipped or, as it were, 
frosted with white, like frozen vapor, an appearance both 
unique and beautiful. 

Of the smaller animals that make inroads upon our 
poultry, the skunk is one of the most numerous and 
troublesome. It is by no means so cunning as the fox, 
and if found at a distance from its retreat is easily killed. 
I will not say caught, for direful consequences frequently 
attend even the operation of killing. Without seeking 
them, the inmates of the mansion have bat too often an 
all -pervading notice of their presence near the premises. 
The house dog sometimes encounters one, and in con- 
sequence his approach to the family must be tabooed for 


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several days. The horses not unfrequently come from 
the stable strongly redolent of a perfume which is neither 
musk nor ottar of roses. 

But they are a beautiful animal, and might be par- 
doned the moral pollution of their thieving habits if 
they would refrain from tainting the physical atmosphere. 
I once came upon a family of young ones, which had 
crept out of a hole beneath an out-house. They were 
mostly white, and playful as kittens, rolling themselves 
together in such a complicated way, that, like the Dutch- 
man's frisky pig, it was impossible to count them. Al- 
though the fur is coarse, I once received from an Indian 
a tobacco-pouch made, of the skin of this creature, which 
was deservedly prized for its beauty. I have been told 
of Frenchmen who domesticate the animal, as they do a 
cat, in their household, and who know how to extract the 
odorous sack. 

These are among our pests. I am pleased, on the con- 
trary, with the presence of those little depredators, the 
squirrels, and will not allow them to be shot — if I can 
help it — on my grounds. , One of the pleasures of the 
country consists in watching the habits of animals, and 
the squirrel tribe is so lively and graceful, that his win- 
ning ways atone for all his petty thefts from the field 
and corn-crib. Gladly would I domesticate him — a not 
difficult task — if dogs, boys and guns could be kept at a 
respectful distance. He shall be free, so long as I have 
sway, to come and go, to hibernate on my premises, to 
glean the nut trees, and of course to lay up stores of 

But though dogs may be taught to respect these wards 
of their master, not so the cat. A colony of the little 
red squirrel, which had become quite tame, and amused 


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US with their lively gambols from tree to tree, just in 
front of the house, were all murdered by a mere kitten, — 
a famous mouser and bird-catcher, who in turn suffered 
the penalty, but only too late. 

The little red squirrel is the most abundant, but we 
are visited also by the larger gray-and-black species, and 
the fox squirrel. All these would become frequent and 
well-contented visitors in my grounds if they could be 
protected from lawless sportsmen. 

It is only in recent years that the flying squirrel has 
come to my knowledge as an inhabitant of my premises. 

My first discovery connected with them was the finding 
of several holes in a poplar tree, about fifteen feet from 
the ground, and seeing a small animal issue from one. 
Each of these holes was about an inch diameter, and as 
exactly circular as if smoothly bored with an auger. 

Running to the top of the tree the creature made a 
spring into the air, and spreading its webs, — which are 
wings in the same sense as a bat*s, — reached another tree 
fully a hundred feet distant. Its flight was not horizon- 
tal, but in a descending line, which bore it to the tree 
at only a few feet above the ground. The animal does 
not merely spread its membranous sides, but has a bal- 
ancing motion, like that of birds sailing through the air, 
which no doubt greatly assists to sustain it, and its prog- 
ress may fairly be called a flight. It evidently has 
some command of its wings, beyond that of a mere par- 
achute, for I observed that when a few feet from the tree, 
instead of continuing its direct course, which would have 
carried it to the ground, it changed the direction to that 
of an upward curve, alighting on the tree. 

About two years ago I fixed up a bird-house in a small 
tree, where it was sharply contended for, and finally taken 


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possession of by a pair of bluebirds. After the first year 
I observed that birds no longer frequented it, and on 
getting up to investigate, out rushed a flying squirrel, 
which immediately, as is its wont, ascended the highest 
branch, and thence took flight. This adoption of an 
abode so near my own would have been a very pleasing 
incident, but for the fact that these little animals seldom 
make their appearance by day, coming out only after 
nightfall, so that their acquaintance is rare and unsatis- 

I have discovered one other nut-collector in our neigh- 
borhood. While chopping one winter day in the woods, 
I found in a hollow tree a nest of deer-mice. They were 
snugly housed in various soft materials, and had an en- 
trance just large enough for their purpose, at the height 
of two feet from the ground. It was small enough to ex- 
clude their enemies, the black squirrels, who — the thiev- 
ing rogues — I very much fear help to maintain them- 
selves during the winter by depredating upon their weaker 
neighbors. Cruel as we may sometimes deem it, the law 
of the strongest is nature's law : 

" ^the simple plan, 

That he should take who has the power, 
And he should keep who can.** 

In the wild state, almost uHiversally, one half of life is 
spent in providing for self-gratification, and the other in 
self-preservation against natural enemies. 

Just over this nest were found two quarts of peeled 
acorns, with a large quantity of beach-nuts and seeds. 
These little creatures, it seems, by no means lie dormant 
through the long, cold winter. They are a harmless ani- 
mal, never found except in the forest. 

The American deer formerly abounded in these parts, 


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and IS still hunted and killed in considerable numbers 
not many miles from the city. Settlements have now 
excluded them from this vicinity. In the early days of 
my residence here it was not an uncommon thing to find 
them in the woods that bordered the clearings, within 
sight of the dwellings along the river road. I have seen 
one in full day making his way down a lane which led 
from the woods to a pond on my farm, probably at- 
tracted by the water. He had almost reached it, when, 
catching sight of my terrible self, he turned and bounded 
back to his covert. I was reminded of CampbelFs de- 
scription, in " Gertrude of Wyoming " : 

"The wild deer arched his neck from glades, and then 
He sought his woods and wilderness again.'* 

In my first drive through the oak-openings of our pe- 
ninsula, which I recall with infinite delight, frequent 
glimpses of deer were caught, through the open park-like 
timber. Sometimes they would come out and stand in 
the road, curiosity for awhile overcoming their natural 

During my horseback rides it has several times hap- 
pened that I came upon deer standing with the cattle, 
near a farmer's homestead. They seem to have no fear 
of these domesticated anin^als, nor of the horse, and they 
evidently did not notice the rider, until close upon them, 
when they instantly turned and fled. That * the fear and 
the dread of man * has been impressed * upon every beast 
of the field * since the days of Adam is no compliment to 
man. It would not have been so, but for the discovery 
of his duplicity and cunning. 

The deer is so readily domesticated that it would be 
easy to stock every farm or gentleman's grounds with 


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them, as is so largely done in Europe. But a game- 
keeper would be necessary, and so near as this is to a 
considerable city, the case is difficult. I made the exper- 
iment with several that had been reared from fawns, two 
of which were with me for two years, and until the 
buck's horns had sprouted several inches. They roamed 
at large through a woodland pasture of some 20 acres. 
This was enclosed by a six-foot picket fence, with a light 
wire railing next the grounds, and provided in winter with 
a warm shelter for the night. But boys or men» dogs and 
guns, caused the loss of all of them, much to the regret of 
the children, for they become very tame, and delight to 
be petted. The bucks are sometimes saucy, and a little 
dangerous to timid children. They will not attack a 
courageous boy, but beat down and strike with their 
hoofs one who runs from them. 

I must mention that one of the deer, frightened out of 
the enclosure, which they could jump in a moment of 
terror, swam the river, — a mile to the Canadian shore, — 
whence he was returned to me, after a long time. 

In woods frequented by deer, it is quite common to 
find their horns, which are shed every year. These have 
been found pierced through the trunks of trees. I have 
several times seen sections of trees preserved as curios- 
ities, in which the horn appeared with its root on one side 
and the tip projecting on the other. It is commonly be- 
lieved that the animal has forcibly driven this weapon 
through the wood. Such a feat is impossible. The 
probability is, that, in the effort to disencumber himself 
of his horns, the buck rubbed them so hard against a sap- 
ling as to break through the bark, and wedge the tree 
firmly between the antlers. These remain fixed, and the 
wood grows over them. 


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Sometimes the antlers of two deer are found inter- 
locked. I have seen a pair so firmly wedged together 
that they could not be separated. In this situation they 
were found in the forest, with the skeletons of their 
owners. Either in play or fight they had intertwined 
their horns, and unable to part them had thus perished. 
Probably they were engaged in fierce combat. And 
what a weird thought, that a blow aimed in mutual hate 
should have linked two foes together, and made them in 
their unhappy fate inseparable. 

Elks and moose deer are still found in the northern 
and little settled portions of our lower peninsula, where I 
have seen the tracks of both, and procured the meat of 
the former, which I thought superior to venison. 

A few years ago, an unusual spectacle appeared in our 
city streets : a fine male elk, harnessed to a sleigh, and 
drawing two men. His owner was a farmer near Detroit. 
The poor animal seemed to submit very unwillingly to 
this slavery, and panted much after a drive of four 

The same day a Mormon exhibited here, from Salt 
Lake, two female elks. They were beautiful animals, 
and though bearing a general resemblance to the red deer, 
had a camel-like crook to the neck, and were quite 
shaggy. Their color was gray, with light cream-colored 
rumps ; tail very short ; the head beautiful, with fine 
pointed nose, and lively, good-natured eyes, very black. 

Of the small and common fur-bearing animals, the musk- 
rat still remains with us in considerable numbers, making 
every season his house of reeds and mud in my pond and 
in the marshes which margin the river, at and about the 
mouth of the Rouge. When the winter frosts have cut 
down the rushes and wild rice, these houses become 


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very picturesque objects, rising several feet above the 
water, and looking like hay-cocks. 

That ingenious animal, the beaver, once so numerous 
in this part of the country, is exterminated. But he has 
left many traces of his former labors in the beaver-dams, 
still visible about the interior marshes, and in which the 
logs and sticks that composed their foundation are still 
to be found, deeply covered with soil. Though I have 
never met with the living animal, I have several times 
seen trees that had been recently cut down by them, 
along our Northern streams. The marks show that quite 
large chips were cut out by their powerful teeth, and 
the stump is left with a cone-shaped top. 

Truly Yours. 


Dear Tom : — Perhaps it will interest you if I follow 
up my epistle of last week with an equally volumi- 
nous one on the traits of domestic animals. These 
are a source of great amusement to me, in town or 
country. But in the latter, as there is more freedom, 
opportunities for observing them are greater. 

Everybody in the country keeps one or more dogs. 
Every Canuck, it is well known, keeps five. The first 
which acknowledged me master was of the " bull " variety 
and aptly named Veto, He received his cognomen with 
his puppyhood, about the time of President Jackson's 
famous bank veto, but he earned it afterwards by his 
Jacksonian qualities and boldness in my service. 

For several years my farm was greatly pestered with 
ponies of the little Canadian breed, owned by some of my 
neighbors, but running at large. These were branded 
with their owner's initials or mark, which was all the 


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evidence of ownership ever exhibited, until they were 
transferred by sale into other hands. They received no 
care whatever, were neither housed nor fed through the 
long, cold winters, but browsed and foraged for them- 
selves, and contrived to ** make by hook or crook a decent 

Of course there were many days when they must either 
starve or steal, and as no merely lawful fence could re- 
strain the strongest ones, they lived by depredation. 
Most of the land of their owners was still in a state of 
nature. Mine had a more extended cultivation, stretch- 
ing back a long distance between woods belonging to 
my neighbors. To keep out these marauders was prac- 
tically impossible. To impound them, or take the law in 
the case, was difficult and costly, and besides brought on 
disagreeable quarrels. Yet a tame acquiescence in the in- 
jury could not be thought of. 

These ponies would scour along the road, and down 
the lane, like a troop of fiends, making night hideous, 
break down my fences, visit my barn and stacks, and paw 
up my grass, which they bit to the very roots. Going 
forth in the morning I would find a troop of horse in 

In this extremity, Veto stood me in good stead. He 
was large and powerful. He would seize a horse by the 
nose, and maintain his grip until the terrified animal 
was fairly out of the pasture and thrown to the ground. 
I have known a powerful horse leap a fence, with the 
dog hanging to his nose by the teethj and refusing to let 
go his hold. Cattle sometimes entered the field by the 
gap which the horses had made. These Veto would 
seize, sometimes by the tail, and suffer himself to be 
dragged to the extremity of the enclosure. 


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One of my. own cows once came near being the victim 
of his fierce attacks. Her face had by some means be- 
come plastered with mud, and as she was entering the 
open gate with the others, at nightfall, was not recog- 
nized by the watchful dog. He sprang furiously forward 
and was on the point of seizing her by the nose, when he 
discovered the mistake. It was curious to see his look of 
mortification as he slunk away, ashamed of having com- 
mitted such a blunder. 

Having attempted in vain to procure a law passed at 
town -meeting, restraining horses from being free com- 
moners, — this Canadian custom being even yet too strong 
for modern innovation, — I became at times sufficiently 
exasperated to use my gun, and sting the robbers with 
fine shot. One day I was going to the woods, my gun 
loaded by chance with buckshot. Finding the meadow 
full of ponies, now grown so prudent as to keep well out 
of range of dog and small shot, I was tempted to fire at 
a white mare, who with her colt was a chief sinner. 
Both were touched pretty severely. On my return the 
colt was found dead, and the dam, tamed by her loss, 
stood mourning over him, and permitted my approach. 
Though I had convinced myself that the act was justi- 
fiable, on witnessing the result I felt it to be cruel. It 
was indeed piteous to witness the affection of the mother, 
herself wounded, and moaning over her offspring. I felt 
the pity of mutilating these fine animals, who are not to 
blame for the neglect of their owners. I could not re- 
peat the harsh remedy. 

Early one January morning, I found my farmer driv- 
ing ponies out of the meadow, and resolved to secure 
some of them, with intent to advertise and claim dam- 
ages. This was no easy matter. With the assistance of 


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a third person we drove them into a smaller enclosure, 
where we noosed four by the feet, and secured them with 
rope halters. One, known to be the property of my next 
neighbor, was turned over to him. Two were black 
mares, and had to be halter-broken. They were mastered 
after some obstinate resistance. The remaining one was 
a fine young horse, full of fire and strength, that had 
never felt curb or halter. It may be supposed that he 
was not inclined to surrender. Driving him close to the 
fence, and there tying him by his noosed foot, we con- 
trived to fasten a rope to his head. With these double 
means of restraint, four persons now undertook his con- 
quest. His eyes flashed, and his nostrils dilated with 
fear. With sudden impulse he would bound almost 
away from our grasp. At last, exhausted with exertion 
and terror, he was dragged to the stable. 

My triumph seemed complete, when the neighbor 
whose property I had suffered to escape came over on a 
tour of observation. He informed me that the spirited 
young animal was his property, the other two that of 
another French neighbor. Rubbing up the long hair, 
brands were discernible. He informed me further, being 
himself one of the appraisers, that my fence, though of 
extraordinary height and strength, did not conform, in 
some of the numerous requirements, to the fence law. 
So, fearful of a flaw in my case, and averse to altercation 
with neighbors, I gave the captured animals release. The 
remedial project consumed the day, the only profit being 
the sport which the occasion afforded. 

Veto at length came to a violent end. After recover- 
ing from repeated shot wounds, doubtless revengefully 
inflicted, he at last succumbed, under the combined 
effects of wounds and poison. 


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'* Doters upon dogs ** would be delighted with Medoc, a 
dog purchased for me by a friend at Mackinac. He is of 
the breed much employed by the French at that place 
for draught purposes. On being admitted to my house- 
hold he was deaf to all language addressed to him except 
French, but was obedient to orders delivered in the 
tongue with which he was familiar. A wagon and har- 
ness had been constructed with which he goes to market, 
drawing home the articles purchased. He has drawn in 
this way a barrel of flour from the store. When the load 
is heavy he does not refuse to pull, nor become cross and 
sullen, like uneducated dogs, but buckles down to the 
task like a well-bred draught horse, pulling stoutly over 
the hard places, and doing his utmost. He is of medium 
size only, not very stoutly built, of pure white, and has a 
tail not more than an inch long, the size natural to that 

A friend of mine is owner of a dog named Dask, noted 
not only for his precipitancy, but for a very capacious 
mouth. Of this open feature sundry anecdotes are 
related, not less curious than true, in convincing proof 
of which I submit the following : 

This capacious mouth was twice put to singular use. 
A mouse had taken refuge in a closet, and Dash being 
called, soon cornered the varmint, and made at him so 
fiercely, with distended jaws, that the poor terrified creat- 
ure, seeing no chance of escape, or mistaking the wide 
open mouth for a hole of refuge, or perhaps resorting to 
stratagem — if we may credit so much sagacity to a sorry 
mouse — leaped into the living sepulchre. Snap went 
the jaws: the prey was securely entrapped. But those 
prison doors could not remain long shut, and when they 


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again opened, the mouse, seizing the opportunity, made 
good his escape. 

On the other occasion referred to, a mouse had made 
his way into the store-chest of a boat, and the like refuge 
presenting itself, it leaped in, as did the other. But on 
this occasion the little animal, not discovering the nature 
of the trap, made its way directly down the dog's throat. 
No " presto change '* 'ever created greater astonishment 
than did this sudden annihilation. Dash was not equal 
to the solving of the riddle, and his look of bewilderment, 
as he sought everywhere for the vanished game, was very- 

Another instance of the valuable purpose that a dog*s 
capacious jaws subserved has come to my knowledge, 
although it did not occur under my own observation. It 
was told me on the best authority, and is a striking in- 
stance of the sagacity and devotion to his master's inter- 
ests of the faithful animal whose actions I have been 

A family in C, New York State, kept a fine mastiff and 
a canary bird. One day the latter escaped from its cage, 
and, the window being open, flew out, and perched upon 
a shed in the rear of the house. Every effort was made 
by members of the family to secure the fugitive. He 
would not be caught, nor would he be enticed by food to 
enter his cage, nor by the artifice of a trap-cage and bird. 
After two days* useless efforts, the attempt was aban- 
doned, and the bird given up for lost. In the evening of 
the second day, as the master was seated with friends in 
the parlor, the dog entered and approached him. By 
pressing against his legs he induced his master to notice 
him. The latter then rose from his seat, the dog contin- 
uing his demonstrations by leading towards the door. 


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Seeing that the animal was on an errand, the gentleman 
followed into another room, where hung the empty bird- 
cage, towards which the dog s eyes and nose were directed. 
The master now perceived, for the first time, that some- 
thing like a feather was sticking out of a corner of the 
creature's mouth. He took down the cage, and its door 
and the dog's mouth being opened simultaneously, out 
rushed the lost canary, from its new prison into the old 
one, uttering a loud and gleeful chirrup, which ended 
in a song the moment it reached the accustomed perch. 

Before bringing this dog chat to an end, I must add a few 
parting words about one of the smallest of his kind, a 
little dwarfed specimen of a black-and-tan terrier, named 
Pete. We used to call him Melancholy Pete, for his 
misanthropic look and cynical disposition. Pete well un- 
derstood his position as pet of the household, and con- 
sidered the whole dignity of the family. centred in his 
single small person. He became very angry when any 
meanly dressed person was admitted into the house, and if 
by chance such person came into the parlor his offended 
dignity drove him into the dark corner, from which he 
would not emerge for some time after the offending vis- 
itor had departed. The children amused themselves with 
his moroseness, pointing finger and making faces at him, 
which he resented with much surliness. He died finally 
of a broken heart, caused by the admission of another 
dog of the same species as a pet into the family. Poor 
sensitive Pete. How many ambitious lives, like thine, 
surrounded with every luxury, still fail of happiness ! 

After these " desultory dottings down upon dogs,'* you 
may be pleased with a few " cursory cogitations concern- 
ing cats." 

I have to relate a singular incident illustrative of strong 


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natural affection in this much slandered animal. I must 
premise that at the time of the introduction of Medoc 
into the household, my domestic establishment was 
graced by two feline pets : Nora, 2^ fine Angora cat, and 
her son Jose. 

Medoc's disposition was by no means savage, but rather 
peaceable ; but he could resent indignity. Nora, on the 
contrary, was fiercely hostile to the whole canine race, 
and would consent to no familiarity with them. Hith- 
erto she had always succeeded in keeping every dog 
at a distance, and she commenced immediate war upon 
Medoc. His dogship at first submitted to her unfriendly- 
demonstrations with exemplary patience, the only sign 
of resentment being a growl. Nora was implacable, and 
on a second occasion, when he entered her presence, fle^v 
at his face with her sharp claws. The dog, a little 
aroused, but still generous, seized her by the neck, and 
administered a gentle shake, by way of reproof. A third 
time puss repeated her offensive conduct, flying in his 
face, with the added insult of hissing and spitting at him. 
This was more than his wounded dignity could bear. 
" Three times and out ** was Medoc*s motto. He seized 
her in his strong jaws, but this time by the spine, and 
my beautiful Angora was dead in an instant. 

Nora had shown great partiality to her son Jose, con- 
senting for his sake, I believe, to the death of a recent * 
litter, in order that her favorite of a year old might con- 
tinue to nurse. Jose showed equal fondness. A grave 
was dug for the dead mother in the yard, where she was 
deposited with befitting solemnities, the kitten watching 
the proceeding. Jose then took possession of the grave, 
which no persuasion could induce him to quit. He re- 
fused all sustenance, was often seen scratching the earth, 


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and was at length found dead upon the body of his 
mother, — an example of filial love very rare, and sur- 
passing even that of a parent for its offspring. 

I was afterwards possessor of a feline of the sterner sex, 
a fine large animal of pure white, who became a great 
favorite, and who was equally attached to me. He al- 
ways came into the parlor to be petted or lie at my feet, 
when he heard my footsteps in the house, after out-door 
labor was over. During my temporary absences of sev- 
eral days, he would seize the occasion to absent himself 
on hunting expeditions, after ascertaining that I was not 
in the parlor at the usual time, but he always returned 
to greet me when I came back. 

Tom would perform a number of tricks at my mandate, 
such as jumping through my arms, or over my head, and 
these he would do for no one else. One of his tricks was 
to feign death. . At the word " die " he would lie per- 
fectly still, and suffer himself to be lifted and carried 
about, like a defunct, for the amusement of the company. 

This cat had a brother of the same breed, and both 
were trained hunters. Tom and Jerry usually hunted in 
couples. Stealing forth together, one would tree the 
game, or keep it at bay, while the other ** went in ** and 
secured it. This proceeding they would change about, 
so as to give each an equal opportunity of indulging in 
the pleasanter part of the performance. 

Poor Tom died of an asthma. He was accustomed to 
be fed by one of the ladies of the family, to whom, next 
after myself, he was most attached. During his sickness 
he slept in her room, upon a bed prepared for him, and 
she alone administered his medicines. One day his nurse 
discovered him lying upon her own bed, and scolded him 
somewhat sharply. Tom immediately left her room, turn- 


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ing at the door and hissing, and would never again be 
induced to return, nor would he, in his peevish resent- 
ment, permit any further acts of kindness on the part of 
his former friend. He retired to a lonely room, where a 
few days afterwards he Was found dead. Alas ! loving, 
but too sensitive Tom ! 

Domestic animals — the dog, for instance — often exhibit 
a horror of music, but I can testify to a contrary taste in 
a cat. 

My family had been frequently awakened in the night 
by the tones of a piano in measured cadence sounding, 
sometimes passing through all the notes of the gamut, 
from bass to treble. It was some time before this musical 
ghost was laid. This was effected by the discovery that 
the piano was sometimes carelessly left open, after the 
evening hymn, and that on these occasions puss improved 
her opportunity for practising. She did so by walking 
forwards and backwards over the keys, evidently greatly- 
relishing the harmony, 

** In linked sweetness long drawn out." 

Powers of fascination have been ascribed to the cat, in 
common with the snake, but the fact has been disputed. 
I was witness to an occurrence which seemed to me con- 
firmatory of its truth. 

Sitting under my porch one day, my attention was 
attracted by an incessant chirping. I soon discovered a 
small bird, hopping continually from branch to branch of 
a tree, ten feet or more from the ground. Casting my 
eyes below they fell upon my domestic tabby, sitting 
composedly on the grass, and apparently not noticing 
the bird. I could not determine whether or not the chirp 
was a cry of distress, but the poor little bird seemed to 
be under some spell, for each time he hopped lower, and 


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still lower, and at last down to the ground. In an in- 
stant puss sprang and seized upon the prize thus offered 
up, a voluntary victim. 

Doubtless you, in common with many of my friends, 
some of whom I know to be lovers of pets, can relate 
anecdotes quite as curious as any of these. I record them 
as among the treasured recollections of early and happy 
days, amid quiet enjoyments and in rural pleasures 

Your true friend. 


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" When we discovered this vast continent it was full of wild beasts. A 
handful of Frenchmen has made them almost entirely disappear in less than 
an age, and there are some the species of which is entirely destroyed. They 
killed the elks and moose-deer merely for the pleasure of killing them, and 
to show their dexterity." — Charlevoix, 1721. 


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TO render this subject more complete, I append to 
the foregoing letters some later and more syste- 
matic observations. 

The diversity of climate of the 'United States affords to 
mammalian life a large range, compared with Europe. 
And in this respect no portion of our country of equal 
extent is more favorable than our peninsulas of mingled 
prairie, oak-openings and timbered lands, and giving the 
advantages of a softened lake climate on the south, with 
that of a more cold and broken country on the north. 

Our existing mammalia include only three orders. 
Rapaciuy Rodentia and Ruminantiay unless we may claim 
a Marsupial — the Opossum. This animal, I have been in- 
formed, once existed in or not far from this neighborhood, 
but I will not vouch for the fact. 

With all our vast extent of sea-like waters, neither any 
of the whale kind (Cetacce) nor of the seal kind (Pkocidce) 
visit our fresh-water seas. 

Among the Carnivora, or Rapacia, in the family Ves- 
pertilionidce, we have several species of Bats. But, ex- 
cepting the common bat {Vespertilio novaboracensis) and 
the little brown bat (F". siibulatus) I am not familiar with 

The family Sorecidce, or Shrews, which belongs both to 
the Old World and the New, has two species in Michigan, 
of the genus Sorex, — 5. platyrhinus and 5. talpoides. 

The Moles, family Talpidce, abound in every part of 



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North America. In our State, in genus Scalops, are the 
prairie mole (5. argentatus) and the common mole (S. 
aquaticus)y that so persistently burrows beneath the sod 
and the walks, in pursuit of worms. Genus Condylura 
includes the star-nosed mole (C cristata\ which is more 
rare. ^ 

Of the family Ursidce Michigan has, in common with 
the northern portion of the Union, the Black Bear, Ra- 
coon, Badger, and Wolverene; though these have all 
nearly disappeared from this neighborhood. 

That bears had not all been exterminated from this 
part of the State down to a recent date is apparent from 
an item which appeared in the Detroit Free Press, in 

A resident of Springwells, named Tyrell, brought into 
the city the skin of a bear, shot near Algonac» on St. Clair 
River, where he had been hunting, about which he had a 
story to tell. 

Just at dark he had traced the animal into a swamp, 
but concluded to wait until morning before coming to 
close quarters. He had just made his way to dry land 
when two bears appeared on the ridge, two rods in front 
of him. Levelling his rifle he fired, and the next moment 
both animals were coming down upon him at full speed. 
There was no time for reloading. The hunter dropped 
his gun, and made for a scrub-oak, which he reached 
barely in time to swing himself by a limb out of reach. 
He worked his way through the thick branches, as high as 
the tree would bear him, about fifteen feet, and through 
the gloom could discern the bears snuffing at the base. 
One of them was not long in attempting a closer acquaint- 
ance, but on getting up half the distance to the hunter 
found his way impeded by the thick limbs, and dropped 


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to the ground. Repeating his efforts, the hunter struck 
a match and dropped it on bruin's head, which frighted 
him back again. This trick was repeated at every fresh 
attempt of the animal to climb the tree, and was every 
time successful. 

The animals ceased their efforts to climb, but remained 
so long pacing and growling around, that Tyrell did not 
dare to come down, but remained the entire night in his 
perilous and uncomfortable position, battling with the 
sleepy god. He says he would rather ride from Detroit 
to Buffalo, astride the walking-beam of a steam-boat, than 
do it again. When, stiff and sore, the next morning he 
ventured down, the welcome sight met his eye, of a bear 
lying dead, the blood on ground and leaves showing that 
he had bled to death. His companion was not visible. 
The hide was on exhibition for some time at the Central 

The Wolverene (Gulo luscus\ belonging to the family 
Mustelidce, is now very rarely found. Michigan is about 
its southern limit. As this almost extinct animal has 
given to our State its slang name, some interest attaches 
to it which it would not otherwise possess. From his 
resemblance to the bear this animal has been placed by 
some authorities among the Ursidce, 

Having given some description of the wolverene in a 
preceding letter, I will only now add that considering his 
mischievous and destructive disposition, he looks quite 
meek. The head is almost sheep-like. Are we to infer 
that the people of the Wolverene State are very lamb-like 
to outward appearance, but very dangerous to meddle 

In the same family we possess the Skunk, Mink, Mar- 
ten, Fisher, and Weasel. I am not sure whether the 


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American Sable {Mustela martes) exists within our bor- 
ders, but it is presumable that it once did so, its habitat * 
being the wooded districts of this zone. It is a beautiful 
animal, and its extermination is due to the qualities of its 
fur, which is very highly valued. 

Of the family Lutidce, our northern waters still retain 
that sagacious animal, the Otter {Lutra Canadensis). Its 
fur, once valued next to that of the beaver, is now rare. 

Some years ago Mr. L. B. Smith, of Detroit, purchased 
in Gratiot Co. a tame otter, of which I copy the following 
notice; *' He was captured by an Indian when only about 
a week old, and has become as tame as a house-cat. He 
is of dark brown color, two feet in length from his nose to 
the tip of his tail, and lives principally on bread-and-milk 
and fresh meat, but whenever opportunity is given will 
catch fish, of which he is extremely fond. When sleep- 
ing (which he does the greater portion of the day), he lies 
curled up, with his tail between his fore paws and the ex- 
treme end in his mouth. The odd little creature has 
always exhibited a remarkable fondness for babies, and 
whenever brought into the presence of one is restless "S^nd 
intractable until permitted to fondle it, and no amount 
of coaxing can induce him to quit its presence. When 
grieved he sets up a shrill piping, not unlike that of a 
young chicken, but when particularly delighted emits a 
cachinatory sound, closely resembling the laugh of a hu 
man being. He has been taught to follow his master, 
and to perform several interesting tricks.*' 

Of the Canidce, or Dog. family, are still found within 
the State the Wolf, gray and white {Canis occidentalism 
— though in greatly reduced numbers, — also the black 
or dusky wolf, though the latter is very rare; we have 


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also the common or Red Fox {Vulpes fulvus)^ and the 
Silver-gray Fox, — a rare variety. 

The Detroit papers in 1871 gave accounts of the ex- 
ploits of three Detroit hunters in the woods of Northern 
Michigan, bringing into town from Gladwin County 
among their trophies seventy-five wolf skins. These they 
captured by means of a wolf trap on a wholesale scale. 
It consisted of a two-story cabin, in the lower story of 
which, on two sides, were large doors, so constructed as 
to be drawn up and let down at the will of those above. 
For bait, old broken-down horses were used, as this kind 
of varmint likes its prey living. 

When several wolves were thus decoyed into the 
house, the doors were let down and they were entrapped. 
Then by taking up a board in the floor the hunters were 
enabled to shoot the imprisoned animals. When this 
trick failed, a horse was tied to a tree in the woods, where 
the wolves, on coming to their prey, were exposed to their 
ambushed enemies. Generally one horse stood for eight 
wolves, before the poor beast finally gave up the ghost. 

The Free Press of the previous year tells the story of a 
Canadian family coming to this city from Ottawa, and 
having in lieu of the family mastiff a large gray wolf. 
He was only half civilized, and so cross as to call for fre- 
quent beating from his owner. Whether or not this was 
the best way to civilize him may be doubted. 

Belonging to the idLmWy Felidce is the Panther {Feliscon- 
color), under its various names of Cougar, American lion 
and Catamount. It is common to the whole of North 
America. In spite of its size, which exceeds that of 
the largest dog, and its big appellations, it is not at all 
a ferocious animal. The Lynx (i^ lyncus) is also a 
timid animal. 


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Not SO the Wild-cat {F. rufus), which is a hard and 
bold fighter, and an annoying depredator. 

I give, again from the Free Press of 1871, the following 
account of a fight with wild-cats, which happened in 
Wayne County : 

George B. Morris had on exhibition (Aug. 31, 1 871) at 
the Campus Martius the paws of two wild-cats, and 
stated that he and two other farmers had a very exciting 
time in making their capture. 

For three or four months farmers living in Brownstown 
and Huron townships had been very much annoyed by 
the two animals, who inhabited a swamp, or at least 
made it a place of refuge. The beasts had created consid- 
erable havoc among young lambs and sheep, and had been 
pursued many times by hunters, but always made their 
escape into the swamp. One evening, while a farmer 
named Mead was at the barn, one of the cats had the 
audacity to enter a hen-coop, not twenty feet from the 
door, and was not driven from her prey until Mead had 
wounded her with a pitchfork. Securing Morris and 
another neighbor, the three cleaned up their guns, and 
determined to devote a day to hunting down the trouble- 
some visitant. They were under the impression at the 
time that it was a half-grown panther. Mead having 
never seen a wild-cat. At daylight the men mounted 
their horses, and rode to the swamp, having each a dog 
along. For several hours they beat about the place, 
without discovering any signs. At length one of the 
dogs, which had been prospecting in the swamp, set up a 
fearful yelling and howling, and came to the men with 
his back well scratched up. The other dogs made for the 
spot, and drove the cat out of the swamp, and up a tree, 
where she was despatched by a rifle shot. The farmers 


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had no idea of the presence of another. They were 
seated under a tree, enjoying a cold bite, when a male 
cat, considerably larger than the one slain, came out of 
the swamp, and attacked a dog, which was lapping water 
at a small pond. In a second, hair was flying like thistle- 
down in a gale, and the other dogs joined in. In two 
minutes, and while the men were picking up their guns 
and running to the spot, one of the dogs was disabled by 
the cat, and the other two refused to close in again, run- 
ning around in a circle. As the men came up the cat 
leaped for Mead, fastening to his leg, and the sudden at- 
tack threw him down. He tried to shoot but could not, 
and for some time his friends found no safe opportunity. 
At length one of them knocked the beast over with his gun 
and then shot him through, as he was returning to the 
attack. After receiving the shot he was still a match for 
both dogs, until shot through the head. The brute which 
attacked Mead tore his boot-leg into strips with his hind 
claws, and he was so bitten and clawed about the legs as 
to be unable to work for some time. It would have been 
more than a match for him alone. 

Of the Rodentia, many little animals of the squirrel 
tribe — family Sciuridce — abound in Michigan. Among 
the number are the Fox Squirrel {Sciurus cinerius), the 
Gray — often nearly black — (5. migratorius), the Red or 
Chickaree (S. Hudsonius), the Striped or Chipmuck 
{Tamias striatus), the Flying Squirrel {Pteromys volucelld), 
and the striped Gopher {Spermophilus tridecemlineatus), 
I do not remember having seen the latter in this neigh- 
borhood, but in great numbers on the prairies and open- 
ings in the south and west parts of the State. 

The little red squirrel has a wide range, and is a 
migrant, sometimes marching in large bodies, and swim- 


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ming the streams. I remember hearing, many years ago, 
of a large migrating band, which swam the Niagara, from 
Canada into the State of New York, many perishing in 
the transit. The object, of course, is larger supplies of 
food, but the instinct is a curious one. 

A gentleman told me he was once on Lake George, in 
the State of New York, rowing alone in a boat, when he 
espied a squirrel paddling his way towards shore. The 
rower held out an oar, which the little fellow accepted, 
ran up it and the arm which held it, and sat on his 
shoulder. From this position he soon decamped to the 
bow of the boat, where he remained some time. At 
length, thinking himself sufficiently rested, he again took 
to the water, but finding he had miscalculated his 
strength, he a second time accepted the proffered aid, 
and remained in the boat until it neared the land, when 
he sprang ashore and made off. 

In the family Arctomidce, the Woodchuck, Ground-hog, 
or Marmot, as it is differently called, is the only burrow- 
ing and hibernating animal which I recall. It was for- 
merly numerous hereabouts. 

In the family Garbilhdce^ we have the Deer-mouse, 
{Mir one Americana) ; in the Castoridce, the Beaver {Cas- 
tor Canadensis)^ of which I propose to give some ex- 
tended notice, in a separate paper. 

I will here mention that a gigantic fossil species of the 
beaver, several times the size of C. Canadensis, has been 
discovered in New York and Michigan, in lacustrine de- 

To the family of the Hystricidce belongs the Porcu- 
pine, an inoffensive creature, common in all the Northern 
States, and very easily captured, as he makes no resist- 
ance. I have killed one that appeared in my path by 


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striking him with my geological hammer. The spines 
are much used by the northern Indians, for ornament- 
ing a variety of articles manufactured by them, for which 
purposes they stain them permanently with several bright 

The family Muridce includes that pest, the Rat, several 
species of which, including the large wharf or Norway 
rat, were introduced into this country, that has opened so 
wide its gates to all the world, good and bad. 

The black rat I have never seen, and am not aware 
that it is an inhabitant here. The common mouse (Mus 
musculus) is also an immigrant, but there are several 
others that are native, as the Jumping Mouse, the Beaver 
Mouse, the small prairie, or oak-opening mouse {Hesper- 
omys Michigantensis)y and two species of Arvicola, or 
field mice. 

To this family also belongs the Muskrat or Musquash 
{Fiber zibethicus). This animal is still numerous in the 
marshes of the Rouge and elsewhere, but much less so 
than formerly. Its range is as wide as that of the beaver. 

One other family only belonging to this order, viz.. La- 
ponid<2y is known to me, but it is a very common one. 
It includes the American Gray Rabbit {Lepus manus)^ also 
the White Rabbit or Northern Hdire {L. Americantis), found 
in the Northern States only. Though known in common 
parlance as rabbits, these are truly hares, and differ es- 
sentially from the European rabbit. The latter is a 
gregarious animal, inhabiting warrens. Our hares do 
not burrow, but hide under brush or long grass, where 
they make what are called "forms.** 

Before proceeding to a mention of our existing native 
animals belonging to the order Ruminantia, or those 


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possessing more than two hoofs, I will refer to the ex- 
tinct animals, belonging to the Pachydermata. 

The genus Elephas includes the fossil elephant {E. 
primigenius), whose molars are found in the Salt Licks 
of Kentucky ; none in this State that I know of. The 
teeth and bones of a similar quadruped, the Mastodon 
{E. maximus\ have been discovered in this State, both in 
the eastern and western counties. Though fossil, it be- 
longs to a recent geological period, — the drift, or glacial, 
— and it was possibly contemporaneous with savage man. 
Manufactured arrow-heads are said to have been found 
beneath the skeleton of a mastodon, in Missouri. I 
know of no complete skeleton in this State, that has been 

It is probable that the Bison or Buffalo was a former 
inhabitant here. For it is matter of proof that they once 
roamed as far as the Atlantic coast, south of the lakes. 
None now exist east of the Mississippi, and, immense as 
their numbers were but a few years ago on our west- 
ern plains, so great and wanton is the destruction that 
they are likely to suffer extinction, even within the life 
of the present generation. 

The family Cervidce includes the American deer, com- 
mon from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the 
Atlantic to the Rocky Mountains. Yet it was not known 
in our upper peninsula, on Lake Superior, as late as 
1840, nor until driven northward by the persecution of 

The American elk {Cervus Canadensis), known also 
as the Wapiti, was once very numerous in this State, but 
is fast being killed, and is already very rare. It is a 
noble animal, and quite easy of domestication, as the 
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It measures from seven to ten feet in length, and six feet 
in height. According to Audubon, the American elk is a 
foot higher in the shoulders than the European stag. 
The antlers are wondrously large, each main branch 
often three feet long. A specimen of the animal in the 
museum of the Detroit Scientific Association is seven 
feet in length, and the tail ridiculously small, only two 
and one-half inches long. The antlers of this specimen 
have a spread, from tip to tip, of four and one-half feet. 
The color on the sides is a light gray, nearly white, 
but on neck, belly and extremities a dark tawny red. 
The tail of the deer is much larger, and is beneath of 
a pure white, which is always exhibited when they are 
on the run. 

The fine elk above alluded to is the property of the 
Audubon Club, of Detroit. It was presented to the 
club by General Custer, who shot it on the Yellowstone 
in 1873, and prepared the skin with his own hands. 

In a letter to his wife, speaking of several heads of 
antelopes and other wild animals which he had pre- 
pared, the General says : " The ne plus ultra of all is 
the * King of the Forest.' I have succeeded in preserving 
him entire, — antlers, head, neck, body, legs and hoofs, — 
in fine condition, so that he can be mounted, and look 
exactly as in life. The scientists .informed me that there 
were but few specimens on this continent of elk preserved 
entire, and none so fine as mine. Had I saved the head 
and neck only, it was intended for you ; but having it 
complete alters my intention, as it would require a room 
to contain it. So I have concluded, with your approval, 
to present it to the Audubon Club, in Detroit." 

Another singular animal belonging to this order, 
and of the same genus with the deer, and a native of 


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this State, is now nearly if not quite exterminated — the 
Moose {Alee Amerieanus). It is very wary, and is sel- 
dom caught sight of except by professional hunters. 
In size it exceeds the elk. The antlers are quite differ- 
ent, being palmated. They spread four feet, and the 
palm has been know to be thirty inches wide. The 
tongue used to be considered as great a delicacy as 
beaver's tail. 

The Portage-Lake Gazette^ of April, 1869, contains an 
item, headed, " Killing of the last Moose in Michigan," 
which I transfer in full. 

"In the year 1847 there was a famous herd of wild 
moose living in the woods around the head of L'Anse Bay, 
but finally the herd were entrapped and all killed except 
one old leader stag, who broke away. For a year or two 
nothing was seen of him, but finally there came rumor 
of a gigantic moose, roaming the woods around the head 
of Torch Lake. This winter some Indians determined to 
catch him, and finding his track, gave him several lively 
chases, but until a week ago he always escaped. Then a 
half-breed, Peter Marksman, got after him, and there being 
a thick crust on the snow, the man could move about 
easily, while the sharp hoofs of the veteran moose broke 
through at every leap. Peter finally overtook him near 
Calumet Mihe, and quickly closed his career with a rifle 
ball. He skinned him, cut up the flesh, brought it to 
town, and found a ready sale at fifty cents a pound, real- 
izing over $300. The head was cut off and brought in. 
It alone gives token of the monstrous size of the animal. 
It measures 33 inches from tip of nose to crown of head, 
between the antlers. The nose measured 28 inches 
around. The nostrils, distended, each measured four 
inches diameter, and a large hand could be pushed up 


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intp them over a foot ! The front of the under jaw has 
eight large cutting teeth, which bit against a tough semi- 
homy, pad in the upper jaw, which has no cutting teeth. 
The head cut off entirely from the neck, and minus the 
tongue, weighs 78 pounds. Unfortunately it was killed 
at the season of the year when the head is shorn of its 
greatest beauty — the enormous antlers. The new ones 
were just rising, still encased in the skin, only making 
protuberances of four or five inches.** 

One other Ungulate — the Caribou of the early French 
settlers — {Rangifer caribou) was at one time an inhtib- 
itant of the northern portion of our State, but is now 
quite extinguished within our limits. It still exists 
north of Lake Superior. 

In a paper read before the Detroit Pioneer Society, 
in 1874, by J. S. Tibbets, on wild animals of Wayne 
County, I find mentioned, as those mostly found here by 
the early settlers, the deer, bear, wolf, lynx, wild-cat, 
coon, badger, fisher, porcupine, woodchuck, rabbit, 
mink and weasel. He says the skunk and rat did not 
make their appearance in the rural districts for nearly ten 
years after the first settlements were made ; wolves and 
bears were very numerous, and destructive to the few 
sheep and swine then in the country. He names as old 
residents now exterminated the lynx, badger and por- 

Mr. Tibbets mentions several methods then in vogue 
of trapping those destructive animals, wolves and bears. 
They were caught in traps and in dead-falls. A large pen 
was made with poles, and so constructed that it was nar- 
rowed up at the top, leaving an opening only a few feet 
square. This afforded an easy ingress for the hungry 
wolf, but an effectual barrier to his getting out. 


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A novel mode of trapping the bear proved quite suc- 
cessful. A hollow tree was selected, into which a hole 
was cut, some seven or eight feet from the ground, of a 
triangular shape, with the acute angle on the lower side, 
just large enough for bruin to squeeze his head through. 
Inside of the tree, a little below the hole, a piece of meat 
was suspended. Scenting the meat the bear would climb 
the tree, and in his efforts to reach the bait would get 
caught in the angle of the hole, from which it was impos- 
sible to extricate himself. 

Many interesting facts might be introduced regarding 
the Trade in Furs of the animals of this country. But 
in view of the fact that these have now to be sought at 
a great distance, — the business of the trapper being at 
this time far removed from this vicinity, — I forbear to ex- 
tend these observations. 

I cannot, however, omit to state that Detroit, from its 
very first settlement, in 1701, has been one of the most 
noted markets for the collecting and sale of furs in the 
whole country. The Abbotts, Conants, Macks, Brew- 
sters and Campaus, of half a century ago and more, 
are still well represented by modern dealers. One firm 
in especial — that of F. Buhl & Co. — has been doing 
business here since 1835. 

Notwithstanding the steady diminution of furred ani- 
mals, the trade is still very large, and furs continue to 
be exported from here to all the countries of Europe. 


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IT is many years since that extraordinary animal, the 
beaver, disappeared from this State ; extraordinary 
both in the constructive skill displayed by him, and in 
the results of his labors. 

The beaver may well be considered the cause of the 
settlement of Canada. For among the fur-bearing ani- 
mals which were the object of French enterprise in the 
New World, the beaver was by far the chief. So large, 
indeed, was the proportion, and so great the numbers, 
that beaver-skins became the medium of exchange em- 
ployed in the Indian traffic, the prices of goods being so 
many beavers. It was, in Canada and the North-west, 
the representative product, as in Virginia tobacco was the 
currency of the country. The figure of the beaver con- 
stituted the armorial bearing of Quebec, Montreal, and 
other of the chief cities of Canadian trade, and it is still 
prominent in the escutcheon of Canada. The seal of 
New Netherlands, in the seventeenth century, bore the 
figure of a beaver, as is the case yet with some of the 
countries of Northern Europe. 

The vast numbers of this animal and the ease with 
which they were captured seem to us at this day incred- 

Captain John Smith, who traded at the Isle of Shoals, 
on the New England coast, in 1614, says: "Whilst the 
sailors fished, myself, with eight others, ranged the coast 
in a small boat. We got for trifles near 11,000 beaver 



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skins, 100 martens, and many others." Note the pre- 
ponderance of beavers. 

Vincent de St. Castin, who carried on an extensive 
trade at Penobscot Bay, says that 80,000 livres could be 
annually realized there out of the beaver trade. 

Bryant, in his " History of the United States '* (Vol. I.), 
says : ** The beaver was to the first people of Massachusetts 
a better friend than the cod, though the cod hangs to 
this day in the State House at Boston as the emblem of 
its prosperity, while only here and there in the country 
lingers some dim tradition of the beaver, where an em- 
bankment across some secluded meadow suggests that a 
dam may once have been there." 

But for the avarice of the fur traders, the beaver might 
still supply an article of export and of wealth to exten- 
sive tracts of unimproved lands in Michigan. In this 
neighborhood the traces of their former being are not 
only exceedingly numerous, but have an intimate rela- 
tion to the topography of the country. 

The region between Lake Erie and Saginaw was one 
of the great beaver trapping-grounds. The Huron, the 
Chippewas, the Ottawas, and even the Iroquois, from 
beyond Ontario, by turns sought this region in large 
parties for the capture of this game, from the earliest 
historic times. It is a region peculiarly adapted to the 
wants of this animal. To a great extent level, it is in- 
tersected by numerous water courses, which have but 
moderate flow. At the head-waters and small inlets of 
these streams the beaver established his colonies. Here 
he dammed the streams, setting back the water over the 
flat lands, and creating ponds, in which were his habita- 
tions. Not one or two, but a series of such dams were 
constructed along each stream, so that very extensive 


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surfaces became thus covered permanently with the 
flood. The trees were killed, and the land converted 
into a chain of ponds and marshes, with intervening dry 
ridges. In time, by nature*s recuperative process — the 
annual growth and decay of grasses and aquatic plants — 
these filled with muck or peat, with occasional deposits 
of bog lime, and the ponds and swales became dry again. 
Illustrations of this beaver-made country are numerous 
enough in our immediate vicinity. In a semi-circle of 
twelve miles around Detroit, having the river for base, 
and embracing about 100,000 acres, fully one-fifth part 
consists of marshy tracts or praif ies, which had their ori- 
'gin in the work of the beaver. A little further west, 
nearly one whole township, in Wayne County, is of this 

The lands referable to this origin occupy not the low- 
est, but elevated and slightly rolling tracts. Numerous 
small streams have their sources in these prairies, or 
meander through them. These, flowing with little de- 
scent through the lower connecting levels, are ramified 
in every direction, and form a network or connected 
chain over the whole surface. Dry ridges intervene, 
mostly sandy, and producing a scattered growth of 
white and yellow oaks. The broader marshes, which 
often extend several miles, are occasionally varied by 
low islands, containing a heavy growth of timber. 

These marshes have a soil of black muck and fibrous 
peat, averaging two or three feet in depth, and often much 
more. This is underlaid by clay, with a thin stratum of 
sand or gravel usually intervening. Wild hay and cran- 
berries on the open portions constitute a natural product 
of considerable value ; other portions being covered with 
tamarac trees. 


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The beaver-dams are still discernible. Their builders, 
so the Indians say, disappeared from all this region about 
the beginning of the present century. 

Is there in nature another instance where the opera- 
tions of a single animal have so changed the face of a 
'country, over such extensive areas? For the region of 
which I treat is but a sample of many others, stretching 
through the border counties of Eastern Michigan, and 
about the tributaries of the Saginaw. 

But even this large district only feebly represents the 
immense area on this continent whose character has been 
entirely changed through the operations of the beaver. 
A writer, speaking of the Hudson Bay Company's lands 
in Canada, says : " Nearly every stream between the Pem- 
bina and the Athabasca, with the single exception of 
the McLeod, has been destroyed by beavers, and nothing 
but vast pine swamps remain to mark their place." 

Over all the southerly portion of this vast region the 
mighty labors of this active animal are now relics of the 
past. The beavers and Indian hunters and Canadian 
trappers have alike disappeared. Other furs, or substi- 
tutes for them, have superseded their value to the dealer, 
and the skins are but rarely met with in this whole re- 
gion, which once yielded little other marketable product. 

While the beaver is responsible for the flooding of such 
immense extent of lands once dry, the results are by no 
means an unmixed evil. The great accumulation of 
muck or peat may, with proper treatment, become the 
richest of soils. As prairies of the character described 
occupy summit levels, the practicability of drainage is 
at once established. Even the cutting through of an 
old dam — a day's work only, of one or two men — may be 
effectual to drain of its surplus surface waters several 


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miles of country, and if this be followed up by ditches of 
sufficient depth and number to drain and dry the spongy 
peat, the wet prairie lands will, in time, become thoroughly 
tillable. Were as much attention paid to the proper 
methods of reclaiming these lands as is given to the im- 
provement of other and dryer lands, these now unattrac- 
tive regions would in time become the garden portions 
of our State. 

The beaver is an eminently social creature. Its chief 
purpose in the building of its dams seems to be the crea- 
tion of ponds suitable for its habitations. Usually 
twenty or thirty houses are assigned to a pond, one or 
two families occupying each, and they live in clans or 

It is probable that these ponds may also supply certain 
aquatic plants, specially liked as food, and they assist to 
float to their proper depositories the bark and branches 
of trees needed for the winter supplies. 

As a builder and engineer the beaver exhibits a won- 
derful intelligence. Its dams are constructed of trees 
and sticks of timber, arranged with exact reference to 
peculiarities of situation and current, and filled in with 
stones and mud. They are often 100 feet and more 
long, and 10 feet thick at base, and become very solid and 
firm. I have seen along a stream stumps of trees that 
had been felled, as thick as a man's body. 

This dam maintains the water at the level required for 
the houses, which are built one-third below the surface, 
dome-shaped, and with entrances both above and below 
the water. These houses are very strongly constructed 
of sticks and mud, several feet in thickness, and are 
plastered within and without with clay or mud, and they 
have within several stories. They are so strong as to be 


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366 ^-^^ ^^A ^^R' 

absolutely secure against the elements and all enemies, ex- 
cept man, whose ingenuity and cunning in ways of de- 
struction alone exceed the sagacity of these poor animals 
in the defence of their possessions and lives. 

The fondness of the beaver for the water is such as 
almost to constitute that its native element. In fact, its 
peculiar structure, its flat, scaly, fish-like tail, seems to ex- 
hibit it as a connecting link between the terrestrial and 
the aquatic. 

Charlevoix says he found the beaver very good eating, 
and he adds, naively enough, " Besides, in respect of its 
tail, it is altogether a fish, having been judicially declared 
such by the faculty of medicine of Paris, in conse- 
quence of which declaration the faculty of theology have 
decided that it might be lawfully eaten on meagre 

The traveller, Henry, says the Indians considered 
beavers to have been " formerly a people endowed with 
speech, not less than with the noble faculties they possess. 
But the Great Spirit has taken this away from them, 
lest they should grow superior in understanding to man- 

Indeed, the intelligence shown by this animal in the 
construction of its dams and houses is so striking that 
we are amply justified in attributing their acts fully as 
much to reason as to mere instinct. They know how to 
fell a tree in the proper direction, as readily as the most 
expert axeman. And they apparently consult together 
over the best mode of engineering their works. A dis- 
tinguished engineer — Willard S. Pope — who saw these 
creatures at work in our Northern peninsula, relates that 
on one occasion, when in his engineering operations it i 
became desirable to drain off the water from a beaver 


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pond. Workmen were directed to cut a channel through 
the dam, which they did, lowering the water, to the 
great dissatisfaction of its owners, for, rising early the next 
morning, my narrator discovered an old beaver examin- 
ing the place very carefully, where he was soon joined 
by others. The result of their consultation was favorable 
to the immediate restoration of the dam. This was ac- 
complished, solidly and completely, the very next night, 
under the advice, no doubt, of their most experienced 

The range of the beaver in North America is very 
wide, being as far north as 600 of latitude, or more, and 
as far south as 300, though in greatly diminishing num- 
bers. It is also an inhabitant of the whole of Europe 
and of Northern Asia. 

The weight of our beaver is about 50 or 60 pounds. 
It differs from that of Europe, which is a burrowing 
animal, and not so distinguished for intelligence. 

It is sad to reflect upon the breaking up of these so- 
ciable communities, once so numerous and happy. Our 
sympathies are aroused for the red man, when driven 
from his hunting-grounds ; but the beavers were a settled 
race, owning the lands which they occupied, in a far more 
comprehensive sense than the roving Indian. 

To the honor of the latter, their trappers never volun- 
tarily destroyed whole settlements of beavers, but were 
at pains to preserve the colony, hunting them only every 
second year. But the emissaries of the fur-traders killed 
all they could find, leaving only a few chance survivors, 
to become solitary and miserable wanderers, where once 
their lives had been spent in social happiness. It is a 
relief to know that in most parts of the country their ex- 
tinction has been so complete. 

Digitized b/ 




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** Sent arbores, quae alter! seculo prosint.'* 


Digitized by CjOOQIC \ 


IN no one phenomenon has the century which rounds 
our national life been so marked, as in the attitude 
of our country towards its woodlands. 

Over the whole central portion of the United States, 
a century ago, spread an unbroken forest, embracing a 
magnificent flora of deciduous trees, unsurpassed for size 
and variety by that of any territory of equal extent on 
the globe. 

Southerly from this central region the deciduous trees 
mingled with and gave place to evergreens, live-oaks 
and pitch-pines. 

Northerly this great forest region embraced, together 
with its deciduous trees, the stately white pine, and 
other coniferae, as far as our northern boundary. 

Along the Pacific slope a dense forest occupied Wash- 
ington Territory, Oregon and California, consisting 
mostly of conifers. 

Between these two regions stretched, with few excep- 
tions, an almost treeless region, embracing nearly one- 
half the whole territory of the United States. 

Nowhere in the Old World, from which had come the 
energetic races that were so soon to overrun these virgin 
forests, could the eye of man witness such a marvellous 
variety and immense growth of timber as shut in on the 

♦ A lecture before the Detroit Scientific Association, 1877, 



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west the still struggling, but independent thirteen col- 
onies. The large number of species, many of which were 
new to the botanist, the great size and height of many, 
and their dense growth, gave to the forests of the New 
World a solemn and majestic character which was the 
admiration and wonder of the Old World foresters. 

According to the enumeration of its botanists. Great 
Britain contains 29 species of indigenous trees of 30 feet 
height and upwards; of which only 15 are classed as 
'* large." 

In France, authorities name 30 to 34 species. And 
Central Europe, from the Adriatic to the Baltic, and 
from France to Russia, contains about 60 species only. 

Compare this meagre catalogue with that of America. 

Gray enumerates in the states east of the Mississippi, 
and north of the Carolinas, 132 indigenous species which 
attain 30 feet in height. 

New England has 80 to 85 species, of which about 60 
reach a height of 50 feet. 

The Middle States have over 100 species, of which 
about 60 reach 50 feet. 

The North-west — Ohio to Minnesota — has about no 
species : of these 70 attain a height of 50 feet. 

The South-east — from Virginia to Florida — is richest 
in species, having upwards of 150; 75 of which attain a 
height of 50 feet, or more. 

On the authority of Prof. Brewer, the whole number 
of species of our native trees that attain to 30 feet and 
upwards in height is stated at above 300, or five times 
that of Europe ; of these about 120 reach 50 feet. 
• So different an idea from that which we are accus- 
tomed to is current on the other side of the ocean, of 
what constitutes a *' forest," that its expression may 



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well cause a smile on the face of an American woods- 
man. This idea is well illustrated by Frank Buckland, 
in his ** Log-book/* in England. 

"At one place the tourist asked, * What do they call 
yon hills ? * 

" * Eh, but that*s just a deer forest,' says the coachman. 

" ' Deer-forest,' said the tourist, * but I see no trees.* 

" * Trees,' said coachee, * but, man, who ever heard of 
trees in a forest.' " 

In this country that man would have been unable to 
see the forest, for the trees. 

Yet to its first possessors, all this boundless natural 
wealth was thrown away. Everywhere the grand aim 
of the early settler was to get rid of the encumbrance. 
He must hew a way to his inheritance by bold strokes of 
the axe. The whole life of the hardy pioneer was a 
constant battle with these Titans of nature. To let in 
the sun upon his patch of culture was his first care, for 
upon the extent to which this was redeemed from the 
woodland depended the welfare of his family, and his 
prospects of future wealth. 

Such sentiments as our great novelist puts so often 
into the mouth of Judge Temple, in condemnation of 
the general destruction of the forests, are indeed noble 
and prophetic, but it was well that they prevailed so lit- 
tle. Else agriculture would not so speedily have usurped 
the wilderness, bringing a thriving population and national 

But the century which has witnessed such a wonderful 
national progress did not pass without a change in the 
relationship of man to the trees. 

The indiscriminate destruction of timber, without re- 


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gard to the future, began at last to be felt, not only in 
increasing scarcity of supply, but in diminished value of 
the lands, and other attendant evils. 

So great and indiscriminate has been this destruction, 
that already cause for a wide-spread alarm exists, lest 
our country be speedily reduced to the condition of 
many countries of the Eastern hemisphere. In many of 
the older states, where the supply at one time seemed 
exhaustless, there is now almost destitution of timber for 
the commonest needs. The destruction has amounted 
to absolute waste, and it has been going on in an in- 
creased ratio with the population. 

When we look at the causes of this rapid diminution, it 
ceases to be a wonder. Let us examine these briefly. 

With the enormous increase in the extent of cultiva- 
tion has been coincident one of the earliest and largest 
demands upon our forests, viz., iox fencing nxdX^xvdX. 

Estimates differ as to the amount of wood consumed 
in fences, but all are large almost beyond belief of any 
one who has not well considered the subject. General 
Brisbin, an intelligent army officer, asserts,* " that the 
fences of the United States have cost more than the 
land, and are to-day the most valuable class of property 
in the country, except railroads and real estate in cities." 
Our fences are now valued at $1,800,000,000 and have 
required the clearing probably of 25,000,000 acres. To 
keep these in repair costs annually $100,000,000. 

The timber which goes into railroad ties is .also enor- 
mous. According to the same writer "the 71,000 miles 
of railroad in the United States have required in build- 
ing 184,000,000 ties, and these have to be replaced every 

* In an able letter to the New York Worldy 1875. 


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seven years." This annual supply is equivalent to not 
less than 2,ocx),ooo cords of standing timber ; so that, 
assuming the average yield per acre to be 50 cords, rail- 
road ties destroy annually 40,000 acres of woodland. 

The annual consumption of wood for fuel may be esti- 
mated at over 50,000,000 cords, causing a clearing of 
600,000 acres. It took 10,000 acres of forest, in 1871, to 
supply Chicago with fuel for a single year. To this we 
must add the supply annually required for furnaces and 
manufactures of all kinds, which call for many thousand 
acres more. 

The felling of forest in the process of bringing new land 
under cultivation is still going on, at a rate almost be- 
yond computation. From i860 to 1870 it is supposed 
that no less than 12,000,000 acres were thus destroyed, 
or 1,200,000 annually. 

When we consider the great lumber interests of our 
country, the rate at which our woods are being felled, to 
supply the demand for pine and other timber used in the 
arts, almost staggers belief. ^ 

Michigan takes the lead of all the States. Her annual 
cut for the last ten years, as shown by reliable statistics, 
has been not far from, 2,500,000,000 feet, board measure ; 
equivalent to the removal of 33,000 acres of forest. With 
even no greater ratio of increase in the future, the next 
cycle of ten years will find little white pine timber left in 
this State. 

Pennsylvania, New York and Wisconsin follow not far 
behind, and, taking into account the whole country, it is 
safe to set down the total annual consumption of manu- 
factured lumber at not far below 20,000,000,000 feet ; rep- 
resenting an annual clearing of 325,000 acres, or over 500 
square miles. 


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The Canadian Lumberman gives some further items, 
showing where the wood goes. 

" To make shoe pegs enough for American use con- 
sumes annually ic»,ooo cords of timber. Lasts and boot- 
trees take 500,000 cords of birch, beech and maple, and 
the handles of tools 500,000 more. To make our lucifer 
matches 300,000 cubic feet of the best pine are required 
every year. The baking of our bricks consumes 2,000,000 
cords of wood, or what would cover with forest 55,000 
acres of land. Telegraph poles represent 800,000 trees, 
and their annual repair about 300,000 more. Packing 
boxes cost, in 1874, $12,000,000, while the timber used 
each year in making wagons and agricultural imple- 
ments is valued at more than $100,000,000." 

To all these recurring causes of the destruction of our 
forests we must addy?r^^, the ravages of insects, and other 
natural agencies; causes which are rapidly on the in- 
crease. The destruction by forest fires seems likely soon 
to equal all other causes, in our characteristic neglect 
of the proper remedies. 

The total annual consumption of our forests from all 
these causes combined has been variously estimated at 
from 4,000,000 to 8,000,000 acres. Assuming the lowest es- 
timate to be nearest the truth, and the annual increase to 
be ten per cent, only, it will require less than half another " 
century to leave us treeless, unless planting on a large 
scale be resorted to. Wonderful progress indeed, but 
attended by what waste of this great natural store-house 
of wealth, and with how little prevision of the future ! 

I need not dwell upon the economical importance of 
this subject. When we consider how largely the wealth 
of the country consists in its woods, and how vastly the 
price of lumber of all kinds will be enhanced, so soon as 


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we are reduced to grow our own forests, the results seem 

i» » 

There is another aspect of this subject which still more 
deeply concerns the national welfare, viz., the relationship 
of trees to climate. 

There is not entire agreement among practical scien- 
tists, as to the effect of the removal of the forests upon 
the climate, and especially upon the rainfall. Without 
going into any discussion, I think the following propo- 
sitions are well established, and of vital importance: 

1st. That the temperature is hotter in summer and 
colder in winter, than when the country was covered 
with forest. This is a natural result of exposure of the 
soil to more active radiation, and consequent frost. 

2d. The winds have a more uninterrupted sweep, and 
so the country is both dried up and refrigerated. 
Scarcely any influence is so deleterious to plant life as 
exposure to our severe westerly winds. 

3d. The rainfall is either less in amount, or it is less 
equally distributed through the seasons, and its advantages 
to the soil and to plants are to a great degree lost. 

It may be admitted that data are yet insufficient to de- 
termine the question, whether the removal of forest di- 
minishes the actual amount of rainfall. The weight of 
testimony and philosophy tend to the latter conclusion. 
At least certain principles may be accepted as in har- 
mony with the above propositions. 

Trees are remarkable condensers of humidity, as may 
be seen from the drops which they precipitate during a 
fog, sometimes even producing rills of water. From this 
cause, and the shade which they afford to the ground, a 


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more uniform degree of moisture is preserved in the at- 
mosphere about them than in cleared lands. 

Now, vapor pervading the atmosphere has a remarkable 
efficiency in preventing radiation of heat from the soil. 
Wherever the air is dry the thermometric range will be 
great. Tyndall says, " The removal for a single winter's 
night of the aqueous vapor from the atmosphere which 
covers England would be attended by the destruction of 
every plant which a freezing temperature could kill." 

Observations made in Bavaria showed, that for the 
month of July the temperature at midday within the 
forest is 8 ® below that of the unwooded land, but at 
night it is 4.39^ higher. During the night, the colder and . 
denser air of the unwooded land passes into the forest, 
rises and is cooled, and during the day the contrary 
occurs. Thus a circulation is established which regulates 
the temperature. 

By keeping up a cooler atmosphere over them than in 
the open ground, trees maintain the condition under 
which rain is precipitated by condensation. In open 
spaces the warmer ascending air tends to disperse the 
vapors which collect and are utilized by our woods and 
forest-covered hills. In this way the latter doubtless pro- 
mote the frequency of showers, if they do not augment 
the total amount. 

Finally, the presence of forest serves to retain the 
moisture that falls, as well as to diminish the evaporation 
from the soil. Thus the rains are allowed to soak into 
the soil, or to pass away gradually ; which, falling upon 
open ground, are rapidly drained off into the dry water- 
courses, and occasion disastrous floods. 

These propositions are so fully sustained by facts, all 


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over the world, and these have been so repeatedly 
brought to our notice, that I feel disposed to pass by 
any details. Yet I cannot forbear to fortify my position 
by referring to a few. 

No one whose observations cover a quarter of a cent- 
ury can be unfamiliar with the fact, so frequently no- 
ticed, that the streams with which he was familiar in his 
boyhood have shrunken or dried up. Wherever the 
woods are cleared away to any considerable extent this 
effect invariably follows. Springs fail, water-courses be- 
come dry, or yield only a precarious and scanty supply 
compared with their former copiousness. 

How different the aspect now of all the settled por- 
tions of our land from what it appeared to the eyes and 
was described in the relations of the earliest travellers. 

" Before these fields were shorn and tilled 

Full to the brim our rivers flowed ; 
The melody of waters filled 

The fresh and boundless wood ; 
And torrents dashed, and rivulets played. 
And fountains spouted in the shade." 

In the desiccated county we now inhabit, how unreal 
seem these lines of our great poet, whose fourscore years 
have made him a faithful witness of the scenes he so 
graphically depicts ? * 

Droughts have become of frequent occurrence where 
they were seldom known while the greater portion of the 
country was covered with wood. They are now the rule 
in summer and autumn, rather than the exception. 
These are facts familiar to most of us. Our pastures dry 
up and are of little service for several weeks during 
the year. The more tender fruits, such as the peach, 

* Bryant : died May, 1878. 


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cannot be successfully grown where they bore abundant 
crops some years ago. The grape mildews, or fails to 
ripen. Many of our most hardy trees and shrubs are 
killed, by the depth to which frost penetrates the soil. 
Wheat and other crops suffer from the same causes. 

Should this state of things continue, and increase in 
the ratio of the past, another half-century will witness 
our land as unfruitful and barren as are those deserts of 
the Orient, now almost uninhabitable, which were once 
the homes of millions and the cradle of the human fam- 

The experience of the Old World should be a lesson to 
us. Says a writer in Appletons Journal (A. B. Guern- 
«ey), " Palestine, when the Hebrews took possession of 
it, was a land of rivulets and fountains. In its palmy days 
the territory — not so large as Massachusetts — ^supported 
in plenty a population of at least five millions, where 
now not more than 250,000 find a scanty subsistence. 
Under the Roman rule it was still densely populated. 
But during the wars which followed the revolt under 
Vespasian and Titus, the Romans systematically cut 
down not merely the fruit trees, but the forests, and in the 
course of a few generations the greater part of the coun- 
try was reduced to the almost waterless desert it now is. 
The channels of the rivulets still remain, but they are dry 
ravines, except directly after a rain, when they become 
roaring torrents ; the only exception being those streams 
whose sources lie high up among the wooded heights of. 

" Greece tells the same story. In a large part of it the 
forests which once clothed the hill sides have long been 
destroyed ; the famous fountains of antiquity now flow 


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only in song, and rivers of historical renown are now but 
scanty brooks, which a child may ford." 

"The African shores of the Mediterranean, long the 
granary of the Roman Empire, have from the same 
cause become not merely uninhabited, but practically 
uninhabitable, by any except* nomads, wandering from 
one scanty fountain to another/* 

If the present physical condition of those classic lands 
belies the glowing descriptions of their fertility given by 
ancient geographers, what facts are within our more 
modern experience ? 

A recent traveller says (N. Y. Herald oi Nov., 1872) : " In 
Italy the modern clearing of the Apennines is universally 
believed to have altered the climate of the rich Po valley, 
where now the sirocco, unknown to the armies of an- 
cient Rome, breathes its deadly breath of flame over 
that classic stream, in the territory of Parma.** 

The results of the clearing of the forests from the spurs 
and valleys of the Pyrenees, in Southern France, came to 
our ears last year, in reports of sudden and terrible in- 
undations, which devastated whole provinces, sweeping 
many families, and indeed whole districts, with their 
herds, to destruction. The dry beds of ravines, that for- 
merly were regular streams, became suddenly filled by 
rains of unusual copiousness, which rushed in headlong 
torrents towards the sea. 

In Southern Russia, the winters are becoming colder 
every year, and the summers hotter, more dry and less 
fruitful, owing, as is clearly proved, to the destruction of 
the woods which formerly abounded. From the same 
cause streams are everywhere shallowing, not in Russia 
alone, but over Europe, so that many once navigable are 
no longer so. 


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Coming nearer home, we have similar reports from 
many islands of the West Indies. In the annual Record 
of Science and Industry^ for 1874, Mr. Frederick Hub- 
bard says, " Santa Cruz changed from fertility to barren- 
ness by the diminution of the rainfall, owing to the 
removal of the forests. Streams, fail, springs dry up, 
and cultivation has become impossible without constant 

** In the neighboring island of Porto Rico, which is 
not so mountainous, the rain is abundant. 

" The rainy seasons are a succession of sudden showers 
with hot sun at intervals. The opening of the foil to 
the vertical rays causes its rapid drying, and prevents the 
rain from sinking to the roots of plants. 

"The small island of Curagoa, in 1845, was almost a 
perfect desert, while, according to history, it had been a 
garden of fertility. The cause was the cutting down of 
the trees for export of timber. Almost within sight is 
the Spanish Main, covered with the rankest vegetation, 
over which the burdened clouds shower down abundant 
rain, while at Cura§oa fresh water is among the luxu- 

Another result of deforesting — as yet but little ex- 
perienced in this country — is felt to baneful extent in 
those lands whose hills have long been stripped of their 
protective woods. I allude to the washing away and 
loss of fertile soil, in consequence of the absence of 

Sicily was once the garden of the Mediterranean, and 
its valleys are still fertile, but its hills, which were once 
so, are not only treeless, but so bare of soil as to render 
any attempt to renew their former condition almost 
hopeless. During my visit to the island, in the spring, 



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after a year's drought, a violent rain-storm had converted 
the rills which descended from the slopes into the valleys 
into torrents. These carried with them all the loose 
materials into the larger streams, by which they were 
swept into the sea. As our train approached the coast, 
we found all the streams swollen, and the gullies so filled 
with the sudden flood, as to impede and endanger our 
progress. Looking towards the sea, far as the eye could 
reach, the waters were turbid with the spoils of the land. 
It seemed to my eyes that hundreds of acres of fertile 
soil had been carried off and lost by that single day's 
rain. How immense and irreparable the destruction 
resulting from the devastations of all the years that have 
passed since the hills were denuded of their forests ! 

If similar experiences in our own country have been 
less felt it is because the evil has not yet been so ex- 
tended. But that like effects have followed like causes 
is notorious, as our agricultural interest universally has 
known, to its cost. 

So widely felt are these evils, that legislatures, both 
national and state, have already been called upon to 
establish measures for the preservation of valuable tim- 
ber, the restraining of waste, and for granting bounties 
upon the planting of trees. 

It is a curious fact, which the contrasts of time set be- 
fore our eyes in a new historic importance, that in our 
early colonial history, among the restrictions placed by 
the home government upon the industry of the colon- 
ists, none was considered more burdensome than that 
upon the cutting of timber. It was prominent among 
the causes of discontent which led to the American Rev- 

Sabine, in his " Loyalists of the Revolution,** notices 


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among the restrictions upon lumbering in Maine, one 
which provided that all pine trees of the diameter of 
twenty-four inches, on lands not granted to private per- 
sons, should be reserved for masts for the royal navy, 
and that for the cutting down any such tree, without 
special leave, the offender should forfeit ;f 100 sterling. 

As we in Michigan look back to the times when the 
most valuable pine trees which graced the vacant United 
States lands were ruthlessly plundered, to no better 
result than the educating of communities of thieves, we 
may well wish that our Republican Government had 
displayed somewhat of the foresight and temper of the 
British king. In the light of our experience since we 
became a nation, how strange it appears, that a restric- 
tion upon the plundering propensities of the lumbermen 
of New England should be reckoned among the causes 
which led the way to our national independence ! 

Nevertheless the necessity was felt, even so early, of 
putting a stop to needless waste. We read that " att a 
meeting held this 29th day of April 1699, in Breuchlyn/* 
Benjamin Vande Water, Joris Hanson and Jan Dorlant 
were chosen officers, to consider the " great inconven- 
ience & lose** that the inhabitants suffered, because 
that unauthorized tradesmen " doe ffall & cutt the 
best trees and sully the best woods." 

In some of the colonial grants of New York, more 
than 150 years ago, we find excellent provisions relating 
to precautions against fires in the woods.* 

Congress also, at various times, from 1777 to 1827, 
passed acts looking to the preservation of timber for na- 
val purposes, and to prevent poaching. 

* Report of Commissioners on th? Public Lands, to Confess, 1874. 


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Shall the sons be less wise than their sires ? Though 
in many of the material resources and growth of the na- 
tional life the infant of the past has become the strong 
man of to-day, yet as regards the reckless waste of this 
source of power we are still very far behind. A London 
writer, commenting upon the tremendous ravages of the 
settler's axe in America, compares the wholesale strip- 
ping of the Republic's soil of its timber to Delilah's 
robbing Samson of the secret of his strength. 

In all the chief governments of Europe elaborate sys- 
tems of forestry have long been established, to the end 
that the timber shall be saved from all unnecessary de- 
struction, that it shall be allowed to grow in situations 
where experience has proved its importance in the amel- 
ioration of climate, and to ensure the planting of new 

In this country we have but recently awakened to the 
importance of considerations of this kind. 

The American Association for the advancement of sci- 
ence, at its meeting of 1873, appointed a committee to 
memorialize Congress and the several State Legislatures 
" on the importance of promoting the cultivation of tim- 
ber, and the preservation of forests, and to recommend 
such legislation as may be deemed proper for securing 
these objects." This resulted in the recommendation by 
the committee on the public lands, for the appointing of 
a " commission for inquiring into the destruction of for- 
ests, and the measures necessary for the preservation of 

Congress the same year passed an act " to encourage 
the growth of timber on the Western prairies." It 
granted for every acre planted out in trees, not more 

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than twelve feet apart, a patent for sixteen acres. Under 
this liberal provision no less than 20,000,000 trees have 
been already planted on the hitherto treeless regions of 

The subject was brought before our own State "Legisla- 
ture by a memorial from the State Board of Agriculture, 
referred to a special committee and reported upon by 
them, January, 1867. 

This report, written by Prof. Kedzie, presented the 
facts of the injury to the agricultural, manufacturing and 
commercial interests of the State, resulting from the 
reckless and violent disturbance of her forest economy, 
in an impressive manner. Several remedies were sug- 

Among these was a proposition to exempt belts of 
timber of moderate width, running north and south, 
from all taxation. 

Another forcible suggestion is to compel the fencing in 
of stock, by prohibiting their running at large, and thus 
make an immense saving by dispensing with the general 
fencing of farms. 

A third measure is to encourage the planting of trees 
along the highways, by remitting to persons so planting 
part of their highway taxes. 

Great difficulties surround this subject of legislative 
remedies, owing partly to a natural jealousy of any re- 
striction upon liberty of action, in matters conceived to 
belong to the private judgment of the individual, and 
still more to the prevailing ignorance as to the proper 
method of planting and the care of trees. 

In the States of Europe, and especially in Germany, 
forestry is a science, and there are schools for teaching it, 
and for educating young men to become capabl e mem- 




bers of a forest staff. Not alone are taught the practical 
branches, such as the best methods of planting, cutting, 
preservation against fire, etc., but also the diseases to 
which trees are subject, and their insect foes, and the 
remedies. All the minutiae there practised may not be 
possible under our government, nor necessary for years 
to come, but certainly some system, more effectual than 
any yet adopted, is needed, and cannot be too soon 

Some permanent good might be accomplished by the 
appointment by the general government, and in each 
State, of a commissioner of forestry, with such powers 
and duties as our peculiar circumstances require. Under 
his direction commissioners of highways — who should 
be men of science and experience — may be employed to 
plant trees along the roads, taxing the expense upon the 
lands. Under such oversight the work would be done 
far more cheaply and well than is possible if left, as now, 
to individual caprice. Proper science would be exer- 
cised as to kind and number of trees, method of planting, 
distance apart, uniformity, etc., where now all is hap-haz- 
ard. In time our public roads would become embowered 
avenues, grateful alike to man and beast, belts of 
shelter to the enclosed lands from the blasting winds, as 
well as drifting snow and sands, and promoters of all 
kindly atmospheric influences. 

The reckless slashing of timber as now practised, and 
which is the prime cause of our terrible forest fires, 
should be prevented by stringent laws and a watchful 

Another most serviceable State law would be one ab- 
solutely prohibiting the running at large of cattle and 
swine. As the only object of fences is to restrain cattle, 


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what an enormous saving would be accomplished were 
fences to be universally dispensed with. It would equal 
annually the interest on the national debt, and would 
far exceed the cash value of all the horses and stock in the 
country. All this might be effected by the simple proc- 
ess of shutting in stock, instead of shutting them out ! 
In Europe there are no cattle at large, and no fences. 
The custom is purely American, and its cost is only 
equalled by its folly. 

In the once forest-covered regions of America, where 
the aim has so long been how soonest to get rid of the 
timber, men have hardly yet schooled their ideas up to 
the point of reversing their operations, and planting out 
new woodlands to take place of the old. But in the 
sparsely timbered and prairie portions, the planting of 
trees for timber, as well as for shelter, has for quite a 
number of years commanded the attention of land- 
owners and legislatures. Planting is now going on, on 
a large scale, in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and other 
of our Western States. These efforts, if continued with 
the zeal which now animates the people of those hitherto 
almost shelterless districts, bid far to soon reverse the 
old order of things, and transfer the forest region to the 
other side of the Mississippi. 

I almost venture the prediction, that in another quar- 
ter of a century, the once densely wooded Eastern lands 
will be the treeless region, while the open and arid 
Western plains will be clothed with verdant forests, and, 
through their agency, be refreshed with more frequent 
showers, defended from^the blighting winds, and blos- 
som with unwonted fertility. 

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•* O, hath the Dryad still a tongue 
In this ungenial clime ? 
Have sylvan spirits still a voice 

As in the classic prime^ 
To make the forest voluble, 
As in the olden time ? " 



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BEYOND the quality of utility, in its restricted 
sense, there is another view of our subject which 
I love to contemplate, and to which I ask your indul- 
gent attention, namely, its aesthetic or social aspect. 

To my mind, none of the pfoductions of nature, next 
to a beautiful woman, equals in grace a well-developed 
tree. But to be thus developed, a tree, like the human 
form, must have full measure of light and liberty. It is 
not under the constraints of fashion that woman's form 
divine assumes its highest attractiveness ; nor is it in 
the thick forest, which so thwarts the struggle for indi- 
vidual expansion, that we find in a tree its full e>tpres- 
sion of beauty. Its life must have a more free exist- 
ence, a more liberal supply of the blessed sunshine and 
the fresh winds. It must have leave to strike its roots 
deeply and widely, and to spread abroad its branches as 
its nature prompts. 

Of the natural forms even of our commonest trees, as 
well as of their amazing beauty and variety of feature, 
most people have little notion, who see them only as the 
artificially trained ornaments of the streets, or the 
crowded denizens of the woods. 

Would many believe that the elm, that stately tree 
whose lofty head arches so high above its neighbors of 
the forest, inclines by the instinct of nature to rest its 
drooping limbs on its mother's bosom ? 

How many woodsmen recognize in the tulip-tree of 



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the lawn (Liriodendron tulipiferd)^ with its wide-spread 
limbs, hidden by a drapery of leaves, and glowing with 
a profusion of magnolia-like blossoms, the tall white-wood 
of the forest, whose foliage and bloom are alike far 
beyond his vision ? which 

** high up, 

Opens in airs of June her multitude 
Of golden chalices to humming birds, 
And silken-winged insects of the sky.'' 


The like tendency is true of the hickory, the maple, 
the linden, the sycamore, even the oak ; trees more famil- 
iar to our eyes in the forms which art and constraint 
have given, than in their native characters. 

Yet each species has its characteristic habit, so that 
their diversities and peculiarities are to the lover of 
nature a perpetual and delightful study. For this pur- 
pose the bleak season of winter, which has stripped off 


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the summer*s drapery, offers peculiar advantages ; as in 
Grecian art we are most delighted with the representa- 
tion of the human form in its naked grace, strength and 
beauty of proportion. 

** With more than summer beauty fair, 
The trees in winter garb are shown ; 
What a rich halo melts in air, 

Around the crystal branches thrown.*' 

Andrew Norton. 


Let us direct our attention to the specific characters in 
a few of our common trees. 

The Maples {Acer), in their several varieties, are per- 
haps the most acknowledged favorites of all the inhab- 
itants of our forests. They are indeed among the finest 
of our round-headed trees, expressive of grace, rather 
than strength. Their limbs, left to their own free voli- 
tion, are very evenly disposed and low growing. Beautiful 
in their clean-cut tracery against a winter sky, as in the 


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MAPLE,-ASH, 3g5 

delicate tints of spring, the dense drapery of summer, 
or the glowing hues of autumn. 

The Ash (Fraxinus Americanus), is another round- 
headed tree of whose beauty our woods give little idea. 
It rivals the tulip tree in size, but its light-green, loosely- 
pinnated foliage is in strong contrast. It has a very com- 
pact head, and an air of easy but somewhat formal neg- 

^s7l . J^xtnus, 

Another of our common trees, which in regularity of 
form nearly equals the maple, and surpasses it in the rich 
verdure of its large, heart-shaped leaves, is the Linden, 
Lime or Bass-wood {Tilia). It is comparatively in little 
esteem, but is deserving of greater popular favor. When 
permitted, its lower limbs sweep to the earth. Blossom- 
ing in mid-summer, at a time when most of our trees 
have passed the season of bloom, it fills the air with fra- 
grance. To the bees 

" A summer home of murmurous wings." 


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Our linden is less compact in form than the foreign 
species, but greatly its superior in foliage. As a street 
tree it is seldom seen with us, but abroad it is a favorite 
for avenues, — 

** The broad ambrosial aisles of Jofty limes," 

as the laureate describes them. 

One of the most picturesque trees of our woodlands 
is the Sycamore, Plane-tree or Buttonwood {Platanus), 

Its great size, the fantastic wildness with which it spreads 
abroad its speckled arms, its broad leaves, and its habit 
of shedding the outer bark in great scales, leaving the 
body a lustrous white, make it a very conspicuous object. 
From the difficulty of working its twisted fibre, this 
tree is often left standing after its companions are felled, 
the solitary giant ghost of the clearings. The Oriental 
species, which closely resembles ours, was introduced 


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into England about the middle of the sixteenth century, 
and is now a favorite tree for avenues throughout 
Europe, while it is seldom cultivated with us. Its size 
and ample shade made the plane-tree a favorite with the 
ancients. It was in academic groves, beneath 

" The pillar' d dusk of sounding sycamores," 

that the philosophers of old delivered their lessons of 

In the deep alluvion of our river bottoms this tree at- 
tains enormous size. I remember in my boyhood seeing 
a section of a sycamore brought from the valley of the 
Mohawk, near Utica, and converted into a travelling 
saloon. Its hollow interior was fitted up with the usual 
appurtenances of a grocery, including a stove, and a 
dozen persons found standing-room within. But my 
story is beaten by Pliny, who tells of a plane-tree in 
Lycia which measured eighty-one feet circumference. 


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In this tree Licinius, when consul, used to entertain 

Few trees are more strikingly beautiful in youth and 
grand in age than the Beech {Fagus sylvestris), with its 
wide-spreading, almost horizontal branches, its smooth 
bark, and its light-green, glossy and small but dense 
foliage. It is the very altar of love. Where but under 

its shade has the traditionary sigh been so often heaved ! 
Where have lovers so often delighted to exchange their 
vows, and on its 

" trunk's surviving frame 

Carv'd many a long-forgotten name ! ** 

Another most elegant tree of our northern woods is the 
Birch {Be tula). The several kinds are among the earliest 
of our forest dwellers to put forth their foliage, delicate 
and drooping. The white birch, by its silvery bark, con- 
trasts brilliantly with the dark evergreen forest, where 


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it loves to dwell. It is also a favorite of the poets, and is 
not peculiar to America. Scott sings of climes 

" Where weeps the birch with silver bark, 
And long dishevelled hair." 

Coleridge pronounces it the '* lady of the woods.** A 
larger species, peculiar to America, is well known in her 
aboriginal annals, from the use made of its bark in the 

construction of the light, elegant and serviceable Indian 

Of all trees of temperate climes none equals in majesty 
the Oak {Quercus), the acknowledged king of the woods. 
In variety of kinds, if not in grandeur, this country ex- 
ceeds all others. Micheaux enumerates forty indigenous 
species. Of these, at least half exist in this neighbor- 


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The White Oak {Q, alba) attains the largest size and is 
truly a forest monarch. Some idea of the size attained 
by the white oak in the heavily-wooded tract about De- 
troit may be had from the dimensions of a stick of tim- 
ber got out near Ecorse by one of our ship-builders. 
The trunk measured eighteen feet girth, and from it a 
single timber was squared to three feet diameter and 


fifty-five feet length. An oak cut in my own woods, 
back of Detroit, whose circumference was fourteen feet, 
had a length of bole of sixty feet to the main fork, and 
a total length of one hundred and twenty feet. The 
annular layers showed it to be three hundred and sixty 
years old, or coeval with the discovery of America by 
Columbus I 

The Canada Lumberman mentions a Red Oak ((2. ru- 
brunt), that was being made into beer barrels in 1881, 
which stood 135 feet from top to toe, its girth being \^ 
feet 9 inches, inside the bark. The stem was straight 


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OAKS, - WALNUTS. 40 1 

and branchless for 66 feet, and gave measurable timber 
50 feet above that. Not a flaw nor rotten hole disfigured 
this magnificent specimen. Its age was calculated at 
375 years. 

The Walnuts(y^^^/<^«j), including the Black walnut and 
the Butternut, have strong claims upon our social regard. 
Though resembling each other, the former is much the 
grander tree, its long pinnated leaves having greater ele- 

^lackWdtttUt Jggptau^ 

gance of form, and being more massively displayed. The 
green of the foliage is in fine contrast with the dark color 
of the trunk and branches. 

In the strong, deep soils of Michigan this tree grows to 
an immense size. One near Kalamazoo — I hope it may 
be there still — measured, a few years ago, thirty-three feet 
circumference, at two feet from the ground. 

The pleasing color of the walnut lumber, and the ease 
with which it may be wrought, cause it to be in deserved 
esteem for domestic architecture. But this, appreciation 


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is of modern growth. In a sparsely settled part of our 
State I once rested at a tavern where, to my surprise, 
the whole interior, even to the benches, was composed 
of these two costly walnuts. Their harmonious contrast 
produced a very pleasing effect. But their beauty and 
value were lost upon my landlord, for, perceiving my at- 
tention attracted to them, be remarked, in the way of 

JoLLctLOT^^ Ccmm a. 

apology, that he had been compelled to use these mate- 
rials on account of the scarcity of pine in that region ! 

Allied to the walnuts, in our appreciation of their nut- 
ting qualities, are the Hickories {Caryd). The variety 
known as shell-bark is equally worthy of admiration for 
its superb proportions. It is one of the round-headed 
trees, but possesses greater dignity than most of its class. 
It rises in successive stories, as it were, tower-like, while 
the limbs below sweep the earth ; wearing in its grace 


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a majesty that renders it an object worthy the eye of the 
landscape painter. 

Another of our nut-producing trees, the Chestnut {Cas- 
ianed), is equally worthy our notice for its picturesque- 
ness. When growing upon the skirts of woods or on the 

lawn, it forms a grandly spreading head, the lively green 
of its sharp-spined leaves being in pleasing contrast with 
the deeper tint of surrounding foliage. Whether in 
flower or fruit, it is a most striking object, a favorite for 
all time with poets and painters. 

The American Poplars (Populus)^ though not favorites 
in landscape gardening, and of little value in the arts, 
are on many accounts worthy our regard. They are 


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picturesque rather than graceful. The white bark of the 
common sort (P, Canadensis) gives variety and contrast 
to the wood-side, as the incessant motion of the leaves of 
the Aspen (P, tremuloides) gives animation. It is to be 
prized also for the earliness of its spring garb and tas- 
selled flowers. Some of the species, as the Cottonwood, 
are among the largest of our Western trees, sturdy and 
majestic, while the Balsam has an element of the beauti- 
ful, in the droop of its spray. 

Our Scientific Museum possesses two sections of a Cot- 
tonwood, from Lapeer County, 7 and 5 feet diameter re- 
spectively. The tree was 140 feet high, 10 feet diameter 
at base, and three feet diameter at a height of 50 feet. 
Its annular rings number 188. 

None of our native Willows {Salix) will compare in 
striking characteristics with those foreign sorts, the weep- 
ing and the golden. Nevertheless our willow is in cer- 


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tain situations full of a beauty of its own. It shows to 
best advantage skirting our rivers and ponds. Here 

*' it dips 

Its pendent boughs, stooping as if to drink.** 

The low-growing bushes display their long, lance-shaped 
leaves in star-like clusters, making a charming fringe to 
the water's edge. 

" Eternal greens the mossy margins grace, 
Watch*d by the sylvan genius of the place." 

I would not fail to notice in this association of North- 
ern trees, the Peperidge (Nyssa), a tree little known to 
fanciers, but of rare merit. It has a habit of disposing its 
limbs horizontally, this disposition being carried out even 
to the top, which is often flat, like a table. Its leaves, 
though small, are very green and glossy, and in autumn 


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change to a brilliant purple and scarlet, making it one of 
the most striking objects at that gay season. Our Wood- 
mere Cemetery has many fine native specimens. 

In its combination of magnificence and grace no tree 
of our land equals the White Elm {Uhnus Americana), 
The European sort, though of grand proportion, is rigid, 
and lacks both the regularity of outline and droop of 
spray. This difference in character may be observed on 
Boston Common, where are rows of very perfect old 
English elms. 

The habit of the American species is to divide into 
many branches, which, commencing at a few feet from 
the ground, rise at first in a compact body, and gradually 
curve outwards, the head forming an umbel, which ter- 
minates in clusters of long, pendent spray. These sway 
gracefully in the winds, and, if allowed to do so, will 
brush the earth with masses of small but thickly tufted 
leaves. In my admiration of this magnificent tree I 
would exclaim with Cowper, 

"Could a mind imbued 
With truth from Heaven, created thing adore, 
I might with reverence kneel and worship thee,** 

O thou American Elm ! 

The elm has this notable peculiarity, that it is alike 
graceful, whether allowed to spread freely, or so hemmed 
in as to cause it to branch at a great height from the 

It is pleasant to know that this beauty and magnifi- 
cence do not pass generally unrecognized, as is testified 
by many fine specimens in private grounds, and along 
highways, gothic-arched, and by many of a past century, 
spared by the axe, and left to adorn the pastures through 
the Northern and Eastern States. 


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I recall an individual in this vicinity, well known for 
its magnificence, — the Lafferty elm. It was situated on 
the river road, in what was then part of the town of 
Springwells. It is known to have been planted a few 
years before the close of the last century, and was a strik- 
ing example of the brief period required by the elm to 
produce a respectable shade. In 1864 the trunk meas- 
ured, at four feet from the ground, ten feet circumfer- 
ence, which dimension it held to the commencement of 

the limbs. At ten feet the stem parted into seven 
branches, each of which was in size a considerable tree. 
It stood within the fence, and its limbs extended across 
the road, a distance of more than fifty feet, so that 
the entire spread must have exceeded 100 feet. One 
by one its seven limbs were ruthlessly cut away by the 
axe, and finally the main trunk succumbed to the iron 
march of improvement. The tree was still in the vigor 


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of three score years and ten, and might have continued 
for centuries, with increasing honors and usefulness, the 
glory of the neighborhood. 

With a few words about the evergreen trees of our 
Northern forests I shall close these desultory sketches. 

The world affords no timber more beautiful, as well as 
useful, than the pines, hemlocks, spruces and cedars that 
grow so luxuriantly in the northern portions of our State. 
What a majesty they add, not unmingled with awe, to 
the deep woodland. We recognize Milton's picture, — 

** Overhead upgrew 
Insuperable height of loftiest shade, 
Cedar and pine and fir, a sylvan scene, 
And as the ranks ascend, shade above shade, 
A woody theatre of stateliest view." 

As we penetrate the profound depths, and listen to the 
murmurs — most musical, most melancholy — struck out 
by that grand old harper, the wind, from their branches, 
we catch the poet's enthusiasm, 

" Cover me, ye pines 1 
Ye cedars, with innumerable boughs 1'* 

To the more practical mind the consideration presents 
itself, how useful would be this density of foliage if 
transferred to the borders of our fields, as a shelter 
against the blighting winds. 

Our White Pine (Pinus s^roius)— the great tree of the 
timber district — lacks the sturdy aspect of the Scotch 
and Austrian, but is even more grandly majestic, and 
more regular in outline. Its foliage is of very pleasing 
green, unchanged by the severest winter. 

Of the Hemlock {Abies Canadensis) it is safe to say, 
that it surpasses all the evergreens, as well for size as in 
the elegance of its feathery foliage and thick but slender 


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spray. In the first few weeks of spring growth, the 
lighter tint of the new leaves, pendent from the ends of 
the branches like strings of emeralds, make it the jew- 
elled queen of the arboretum. Yet this most graceful of 
evergreens is seldom seen in American lawns and door- 
yards, where foreign kinds are of common occurrence. 

There is an old adage wMch says that " he who plants 
pears plants for his heirs,** and many a man is restrained 
from setting out forest trees from the conviction that life 
is not long enough to enable him to enjoy their benefits. 
Now, aside from the fact that this is a selfish considera- 
tion, it is not true that most trees are of so slow growth. 
Some items may here be given from my limited experi- 

In 1856 I transplanted into my grounds several trees 
of different kinds from the neighboring woods. Among 
these were an elm and a red maple. I measured these at 
intervals of ten years, with the following results : When 
planted each measured, at four feet from the ground, 
eight inches diameter. In 1866 the elm measured one 
foot six inches, the maple one foot ten inches. In 1876 
the elm measured two feet, the maple two feet eight 
inches diameter.* 

Thus each tree had in the first decade considerably 
more than doubled in diameter of trunk, and at the end 
of the second the elm had trebled, and the maple 
quadrupled the original girth. If we reduce the meas- 
urements to cubic contents we should find that each 
tree had increased in 20 years to more than 16 times 
its first bulk. In fact the maple nearly doubled in 

♦ In 1886 the elm had increased to two feet five inches, and the maple 
to three feet three inches diameter, 


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size each year. The trees are now (1877) over 60 feet 
in height, and have a spread of limb fully as great. In 
each the lower branches bend quite to the earth, form- 
ing complete bowers. 

This growth is by no means exceptional. That of 
smaller and younger trees far exceeds this, and I men- 
tion the instance rather to show with what rapidity a 
fine shade and ornament may be obtained for the door- 
yard, from one or two specimen trees only. 

A dozen or more trees, planted on Vinewood Avenue, 
increased in eighteen years from about three inches 
diameter to an average of seventeen or eighteen inches ; 
six times the original measurement, and thirty-six times 
the actual size. 

All were excelled in rapidity of growth by a black 
walnut; a mere whip-stock when planted, but twenty 
years afterward' a lofty tree, with a trunk four feet in 
circumference. Assuming its. diameter when set to 
have been two inches, it had increased to sixty-four times 
its original size, trebling each year, and that, too, on a 
soil of light sand. How speedily at this rate may a 
forest be grown, and with what immense profit, within 
an ordinary lifetime.* 

The planting of all our roadways is one of the readi- 
est means of obtaining the results derived from the 
presence of trees, with the least expense or loss to culti- 
vable land. By this means may be secured, at frequent 
intervals, belts for shelter to the fields, while a grateful 
shade is afforded to man and beast, and travel rendered 
a delight rather than a torture. 

European travellers have noticed the little care taken 

* This tree is now (1886) six feet circumference. 


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to preserve the finest specimens of our native trees in the 
country ; while they speak with admiration of the pains 
taken to adorn our cities with handsome avenues. And 
here truly their social influence is widely felt. 

" But rising from the dust of busy streets 

These forest children gladden many hearts ; 
As some old friend their welcome presence greets 

The toil-worn soul, and fresher life imparts. 
Their shade is doubly grateful when it lies 

Above the glare which stifling walls throw back ; 
Through quivering leaves we see the soft blue skies, 
Then happier tread the dull, unvaried track." 

Alice B. Neal. 

I have not yet noticed another aspect in which trees 
have their value, namely, as scavengers of the atmosphere. 

But for them the air would become loaded with an 
injurious amount of carbonic acid, an element destructive 
to animal life. Especially in cities, and amid the settle- 
ments of man. is this protection desirable. The respira- 
tion of men and animals, the consumption of fuel, and other 
sources, pour into the atmosphere continually carbonic 
acid. Growing plants assimilate the carbon, replacing 
it with oxygen, the source of life and energy.. This re- 
sult the leaves accomplish ; but the roots also have their 
part in the purifying process, by taking up the noxious 
products of fermentation with which the gutters are 

Paris is said now to have so large a number of parks, 
and its streets and boulevards are so profusely shaded 
with trees, that the death rate has been thereby reduced 
from one in 24 to one in 39.* 

Where there is plenty of growing foliage there is no 

* Scientific Monthly y April, 1875. 


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malaria. The project of Garibaldi to restore the deadly 
Campagna, by planting the rapid-growing eucalyptus, 
has been called wild, but it is entirely practical. 

Can the laws be too cogent, not merely for the en- 
couragement of planting, but in punishment for unnec- 
essary destruction ! Especially should the value and 
uses of trees be made to enter into the education of the 
rising generation. 

Last spring I set out a row of 50 vigorous young sap- 
lings along a public street. Before the end of the sea- 
son not one had escaped the knife or hatchet, all being 
injured and some killed. The act was undoubtedly one 
of youthful wantonness. But how much more apprecia- 
tion is exhibited by boys of larger growth ? Year by year 
our streets lose some of their finest ornaments, never to 
be regained. Many are suffered to be gnawed to death 
by horses. Some perish by the needless cutting off of 
roots by careless workmen, in the laying of walks and 
drains ; others by rights heedlessly accorded to paving 
contractors, gas companies and others, for digging up 
the streets and walks at will, regardless of the trees. 

There would even seem to be in some minds an innate 
hostility to these lovely products of Nature. I am dis- 
posed to think such are actuated by an instinct, legiti- 
mately descended from some ancestor who had reason 
for his hatred. For thus saith the poet, — 

" Indulgent Nature on each race bestows 
A secret instinct to discern its foes : 
The goose — a silly bird— still shuns the fox, 
Lambs fly from wolves, and sailors steer from rocks, 
The rogue a gallows as his fate foresees. 
And bears a like antipathy to trees." 


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Great men of all ages have loved trees, and have ever 
paid them a kind of devotion. 

Alexander had his favorite among them, which, in 
moments of unambitious retirement, he treated with 
the endearment of a child. 

The good Oberlin, whose moral instructions and pa- 
ternal care over the flock of which he was pastor pre- 
served among a people shut up in the fastnesses of 
Switzerland a character of piety and sober industry, 
while Europe was agitated with scenes of moral and 
civil discord, inculcated the raising of trees as a religious 

Many Eastern sages — among them the wise Zoroaster 
— made arboriculture a precept of religion. 

In such estimation were trees held by many ancient 
legislators, that particular species were consecrated to 
the several divinities which the country worshipped. 
Under their hallowed shade were the national rites per- 
formed, and sacrifices to the deity accepted. In these 
sylvan retreats the gods condescended to hold inter- 
course with mortals. 

The delicate fancies of the classic poets delighted to 
associate with the life of trees such imaginary forms as 
the elves, the dryads, the fawns, and other sylvan b&ings, 
whose lives were commensurate with that of the tree 
which each inhabited. 

Though our purer faith has discarded such notions, 
the general advance of knowledge has given us even 
stronger ground for reverence and love. Botanical 
science has revealed so great a similarity between the 
vegetable and animal, that it is hard to tell where the 
one nature ends and the other begins. In fact, some 
vegetables possess a complexity and delicacy of organ- 


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ism, an exquisite adaptation of every part, and even a de- 
gree of instinct, which do not belong to the lower order 
of animals. So far, science confirms the imagination of 
the poet ; for to her eye, as to his — though in a larger 
and better sense — the tree becomes a sentient being. 
It is but a step from this to a consciousness on its part 
of our care and homage. 

When we transplant a sapling from the forest, and set 
it down in our own door-yard, it is as if we had tamed a 
wild animal, and made one more pet for our household. 
An untutored savage has been converted into a domestic, 
and become attached to us by a tie of relationship. 
Henceforth a new friend is added to our list, whose 
character is being yearly developed beneath our eyes. 

Let Americans then cherish with pride the trees of 
their native land. While we look with rapture upon 
their grace of outline, the proud dignity of their rough 
bodies and lofty limbs, the rich green of their foliage in 
summer, or its rainbow beauty in autumn ; while we en- 
joy their refreshing shade, and are made better by their 
companionship; above all when we go forth to 

The wide old wood from his majestic rest, 
Summoning from the innumerable boughs 
The strange deep harmonies that haunt his breast," 

let it be a duty to see to their healthful preservation, to 
study their habits and virtues, and to encourage the 
public appreciation. 

There is a moral to the fable of the dryads, for trees 
are the guardian genii of the places they inhabit. 
Associated with our earliest youth, they never cease to 
interest, while our sense of their benefits increases with 
advancing years. Though what we now plant may 


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Trees as friends. 4 1 5 

come to maturity only after we shall have ceased to be- 
hold them, we know that they will gladden the eyes even 
of our children's children, and that we leave behind us 
living monuments, that shall bear our memories to pos- 
terity when we are beneath the sod whicl 
and adorn. 


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Part I. 

WITHIN a few years the science of meteorology 
has made great progress under organized corps 
of observers. It is fair 'to state that while I make use of 
all the resources within my reach, in the preparation of. 
this paper, its conclusions are based mainly upon inde- 
pendent observations, drawn from my records of the last 
thirty-nine years. Little of merit as these may claim, 
compared with the more strict deductions of the scientist, 
they may, like the observations of almost any lover of 
nature, serve to set facts in some new light, or new com- ' 
bination, and thus have a practical value. 

That the immense bodies of water known as the Great 
Lakes affect the climate of this region is well known ; 
but the nature and extent of their influence are yet but 
little familiar to the popular mind. Indeed, with all the 
advance in the science of weather, the data for scientific 
determinations have been and still are very scanty. 

The controlling element in all climates is temperature. 
The direction and strength of winds, and the amount of 
moisture descending in rain, mist and snow, are sources 
of modification, or results, rather than chief causes. 
Though the temperature of any locality depends mainly 
upon general astronomical causes, felt all around the globe, 

♦ Read before the Detroit Scientific Association, 1874. 



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it is also known that local causes have a very considerable 
share in the production of climate. Thus, the seasons on 
this continent differ greatly from those of the same lati- 
tudes in Europe, being hotter in summer and colder in 
winter. Our spring and autumn also differ from theirs 
in duration, and in other characteristics. 

General facts like these I assume without going into 
the wide field of explanation. They and their causes 
are familiar to you. 

I shall also assume as well known the fact that iso- 
thermal lines, or lines drawn through places of equal tem- 
perature over the United States, by no means conform to 
the latitude, but are deflected north or south by local 
causes, and that among these the Great Lakes have a 
prominent importance. 

The winter isothermal lines are deflected northerly, and 
the summer lines southerly, in approaching these bodies 
of water. In other words, their vicinity is warmer in 
winter and cooler in summer than places in the same 
parallel removed from them, except in the immediate 
vicinity of the ocean. 

These general facts I shall endeavor to render more 
clear by means of a chart. Instead of the usual method 
of delineating the isotherms in a regular series of degrees 
of temperature, I have taken only the means, in summer 
and in winter, of certain places specially important to 
my purpose, and carry the isotherms of these degrees 
across the region of the lakes, from the Atlantic to the 
Mississippi. For instance, Detroit has a mean summer 
temperature of 67 deg. and a mean winter temperature 
of 26 deg."*^ 

* See Part 11.—" Additional Observations "—for an increase in both sum- 
mer and winter means, since the above was written, 


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Observers will notice the summer isothermal of 67 de- 
grees, commencing at the sea-coast at Cape Cod. It 
passes a few miles up the coast and thence inland to a 
lower latitude in Central Massachusetts. From thence 
it rises rather suddenly into and along the Valley of Lake 
Champlain, almost to Quebec. Here it divides, passing 
southerly. One branch between Albany and Utica is 
carried into high lands of Pennsylvania, whence it rises 
again toward Buffalo, and west through Lake Erie. 
The other follows Montreal River and south shore of 
Lake Ontario and north shore of Lake Erie, uniting 
with the former at Detroit. From here it bears northerly 
into the Peninsula almost two degrees of latitude, until, 
feeling the cool waters of Lake Michigan, it loops sud- 
denly down toward Chicago. Curving thence upward 
along the western coast, it leaves the lake at a point 
some miles north of Milwaukee, but at a lower point 
than on the eastern coast. Its course is now rapidly 
northward, until it reaches the parallel of 46 degrees, in 
longitude 95 degrees, a little north and west of St. Paul. 
• From the parallel of 42 deg. on the Atlantic it has 
passed through 4 deg. of latitude, or about 280 miles, 
in its approach to the Western plains. Over these, pass- 
ing westward, it rises to a much higher parallel. 

The cooling effect of the lakes upon the summer heat 
is here strikingly shown. Detroit has a lower mean sum- 
mer temperature than Montreal and Quebec, although 
the latter is nearly five degrees further north. 

St. Paul is hotter than Chicago, 3 deg. south. 

The isothermal of the mean winter temperature of 
Detroit (26^) exhibits equal aberrations. Commencing at 
the sea-coast about latitude 43 deg., and coursing first 
south and then up the Hudson to Albany, it is thence 


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pressed rapidly to the south and along the AUeghenies, 
down to the parallel of 40 deg. Thence it sweeps 
northerly to Buffalo, whence it passes west across Lake 
Erie, loops up into Lake Huron, down to Detroit, and 
thence rapidly south-west into Indiana. It thence 
again loops upward and far into Lake Michigan, sweep- 
ing the easterly coast. Turning sharply thence to 
Chicago it trends rapidly to the south-west, and strikes 
the Missouri at about the parallel of 40 deg. 

From its lowest depression, at this point, to its high- 
est, at the lakes, it has passed through four degrees of 
latitude, showing admirably the warming influence of the 
lakes upon the winter cold of this zone. 

Let us now take a more northerly point and follow the 
isotherms of Sault St. Marie and Marquette, which have 
each a summer mean of 62 deg. and a winter of 18 deg. 

You see by the chart how the summer mean of 62 deg. 
bends south from its high latitude, north of Quebec, well 
down into Lake Huron, and that passing thence into 
Lake Superior it trends still more rapidly to the north. 
Between the meridians of 70 deg. and 95 deg. it hcis 
ranged through 5 deg. of latitude, or 350 miles. 

The winter mean of 18 deg. shows still more compli- 
cated irregularities, though not so wide a divergence. It 
has its most southerly deflections in Massachusetts and 
Minnesota, about latitude 44 deg., and its most northerly 
at the coast of Lake Superior, in latitude 47 deg., a range 
of 3 deg. 

Take now some point south of Michigan, say the city 
of New York, which has a summer mean of 72 deg., and 
a winter of 31 deg. 

The isotherm of 72 deg. follows down the AUeghenies 
as far south as the parallel of 38 deg. ;. thence bears 


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rapidly north-west to Dubuque, ranging through nearly 
five degrees of latitude. You cannot fail to observe how 
it loops up into the peninsula of Michigan as far north as 
Detroit, but bears away from the near vicinity of the 
lakes, where the summer means are cooler by 4 or 5 degs. 

The winter isotherm of 32 degs., commencing at the 
sea-coast near New York, flanks the AUeghenies through 
several degrees of latitude, southerly, thence curves up- 
wards towards the lakes, as far north as Columbus, Ohio, 
and thence again bends southerly, until it strikes the 
Missouri west of and about the latitude of St. Louis, a 
range of less than three degrees. Both these isotherms 
are too distant to be as much affected by the lakes as 
those first noticed. 

These few observations perhaps sufficiently illustrate 
this part of our subject, though they by no means show 
all the divergences and irregularities to which many of 
the isothermals of this latitude are subject. 

Our locality, though so greatly modified in several 
aspects of its climate by the presence of the Great Lakes, 
falls within the general system which prevails throughout 
the temperate zone on this continent. 

It will be remembered that the lakes do not occupy 
valleys, as many suppose, nor do they fill gorges among 
mountains. On the contrary, there are no very elevated 
lands on or near their borders, but the region is rather a 
vast plain than a valley. The planes of ascent from 
their surface sare very moderate, the levels which sepa- 
rate the streams that discharge into the lakes from those 
which discharge into the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico be- 
ing broad and low, rather plateaus than hills. 

Were these bodies of water dry land, of the same ele- 


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vation, there would exist no conditions tending to de- 
flect the isothermal lines from their regular curves from 
the great plains to the Atlantic. But so large a surface of 
water — warmer in winter and cooler in summer than the 
land — does very sensibly affect the temperature of the 
atmosphere which passes over them, and as tempera- 
ture is the governing element of climate, the character 
of the season is essentially modified through their in- 
fluence. The effect is to equalize the temperature over 
a considerable area, and to soften the extremes. 

This modification of the climate may be made further 
apparent by a comparison of the mean range of tempera- 
ture of the months for a series of years, at different posts 
of observation in this latitude. 

Thus, while the mean temperature of the year does 
not vary greatly for the lake borders and places 500 
miles distant, east and west, on the same parallel, the 
temperature at the latter falls to a lower mean in winter, 
or rises to a higher one in summer, or both. The mean 
of the year at Detroit and through New York and New 
England, on the same parallel (47 deg. to 48 deg.), differs 
only about one degree ; but the mean range, that is, the 
increase from February, when the rising scale begins, 
until it commences to decline, in July, is at Albany and 
Amherst 4.5 deg. greater ; the means rising from a range 
of 43 deg. during that period at Detroit, to 47.5 deg. at 
the other places. 

Westward, this feature is still more conspicuous. At 
Battle Creek, due west from Detroit, and about equidis- 
tant from lakes Erie and Michigan, we find a mean range 
10 deg. greater than in Detroit ; the mean of the year be- 
ing only a little more than i deg. higher. At Dubuque 
the difference is 12 deg. At St. Paul (2 deg. of lati- 


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tude farther north) it is 16 deg. The mean of the year 
being at Dubuque 2 deg. higher, and at St. Paul 3 deg. 
lower than here, while the winter at Dubuque is 4 deg. 
colder, and the summer 4.5 deg. warmer than Detroit. 

The mean temperature of each of the three winter 
months at Detroit is nearly the same, and varies but 
little from the general winter mean of 27 deg. At the 
other places named, on the same parallel, the lowest 
mean is not reached until some time in January ; but 
the temperature begins to rise from that month onward, 
and merges more rapidly into the heats of summer. 

The difference between the means of January and 
March at Detroit is 7 deg. At other places east, in 
the same latitude, it is 9 to 10 deg. The same differ- 
ence is found at Battle Creek ; scarcely less at Chicago ; 
while at Dubuque it rises to 15 deg., and at St. Paul to 
18 deg. 

Equally marked is the rapid increase of temperature 
from March to May. At Detroit the advance does not 
exceed 22 deg. At Utica, Albany and Amherst it ex- 
ceeds 25 deg. A like increase obtains at Battle Creek 
and Chicago, and at Dubuque and St. Paul it reaches 
28 deg. 

The maximum summer heat is attained in July in this 
latitude ; the mean of that month being about 2 deg. 
above the summer mean at Detroit and eastward, and 
about 3 deg. at places westward. 

Thence the decline into autumn is very gradual until 
September, the temperature of August corresponding 
nearly with the means of summer throughout (69 deg.), 
and that of September ranging from 6 deg. to 8 deg. 

From September the decline is more rapid, but regular 


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to October, which represents the means of the autumn 
quite closely (50 deg). 

The decline from the means of summer to those of au- 
tumn varies from 18 deg. to 20 deg., being a difference 
of about 2 deg. only for the different places named on 
this parallel. But the decline from autumn to winter, 
which is but 20 deg. at Lake Erie, ranges to 24 deg. at 
the interior stations east, and to 30 deg. at Dubuque, and 
at Battle Creek to 27 deg. 

These results show the effect of the lakes, first, in a 
modification of the extremes, causing a difference of 
several degrees in the means of both summer and winter 
near their borders. 

Second, in a prolongation of spring on the lake bor- 
ders. Here the temperature of April represents nearly 
the mean of spring. At Battle Creek, April is about 4 
deg. above the mean of spring, and at Dubuque April 
has nearly reached the mean of May at Detroit. 

Third, in a prolongation of autumn or more gradual 
descent into winter. In December, places on this par- 
allel in New York, Massachusetts and Central Michigan 
have reached the winter mean of Detroit, but still want 
two or three degrees of their own winter mean. Du- 
buque in December has reached a point 2 deg. lower 
than the winter mean of Detroit. 

Fourth, in a modification of single extremes. The 
maximum noted by me in thirty years' observation, at 
and near Detroit, is 94 deg., the minimum — 18 deg. Very 
rarely does the mercury fall below — 10 deg. in any winter, 
the above extreme of — 18 deg. having occurred only 
twice during the period. 

During the same period in Central New York and 


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Massachusetts the maximum has reached above 100 deg. 
and the minimum — 34 deg., the Detroit minimum of 
— 18 deg. having occurred on an average once in every 
two winters.* 

Such severe extremes are often sudden and very tem- 
porary, and afford little indication of the general char- 
acter of the seasons. Nevertheless, they are an impor- 
tant element in our estimate, and often attest the capa- 
bility, or otherwise, of any given climate for the growing 
of the more tender plants. 

The character of our seasons as shown by these com- 
parisons of temperature may be stated thus in general 
terms : 

The winter of Detroit is warmer than that of places in 
the same latitude in Central New York, Massachusetts 
and Michigan, by at least two degrees, and is 4.5 deg. 
warmer than the mean five hundred miles west. 

Spring is 4 deg. colder, than the central positions men- 
tioned, and the increase from March to May is more 

Summeris cooler than on the parallel east by i deg. to 
2 deg. ; than Central Michigan by 3 deg., and the more 
westerly positions by 4.5 deg. 

Autumn is cooler by i deg. than the points east ; by 2 
deg. than Central Michigan, and by 4 deg. than the west- 
erly posts ; and the decline of heat is less rapid through 
the autumn months. 

These favorable modifications of the prevailing climate 
of this region are still more strongly impressed upon the 
eastern than the western borders of the lakes, in conse- 
quence of the prevailing westerly winds, which distrib- 

* But see Part II. — " Additional Observations." 


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ute over the land the more equable temperature of the 

The mean of summer at Grand Haven is 2 deg. lower, 
and that of winter 3 deg. higher than at Milwaukee. 
The summer temperature is also carried further on into 
the autumn, and the winter mean falls a month later. 

Still more marked is the situation in regard to single 
extremes. It is claimed that the thermometer never falls 
below — 16 deg. as an extreme at any point on the 
eastern shore of Lake Michigan (Winchell), even as far 
north as Traverse Bay, a latitude in which elsewhere, 
both east and west, the temperature has at periods of 
extreme cold fallen as low as — ^40 deg. 

The wonderful advantages possessed by this favored 
coast of our peninsula are fast procuring for it an envied 
celebrity. It is destined to become the most noted fruit 
region of the United States, having all the advantages 
of the climate of the Ohio, the .Missouri and California, 
without their drawbacks. 

It will be seen that Detroit, though so favorably af- 
fected by the vicinity of the lakes, cannot claim all the 
extraordinary benefits they confer in so high a degree, 
and why the palm is borne from her by the locations on 
Lake Michigan and by the southern coast and the islands 
of Lake Erie. 

That delicate foreigner, the peach, is with us liable to 
loss of the crop by May frosts, and even the tree itself 
often suffers from the winter extremes ; but no such 
mishaps occur on the western coast of the peninsula. 
The native grape frequently suffers here, both in fruit 
and vine, but the crop almost never fails upon the islands 
in Lake Erie. These have a climate peculiarly favorable, 
both from the retarded spring and the prolonged autumn 


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WINDS. 429 

of their locality. In these respects they contrast most 
favorably with the much more southerly climates where 
the grape is cultivated. 

An illustration of this came under my observation in 
the spring of i860. Being at Lexington, Kentucky, on 
the night of the 25th of April, I was desirous to visit the 
most promising vineyard in that neighborhood, the vines 
of which were set full in fruit. The morning brought a 
black frost, and when I visited the yard. not a bunch was 
found unspared ; the whole crop was destroyed. Return- 
ing North, I reached Lake Erie on the ist of May. 
There a winter temperature still reigned, and not a bud 
had put forth. In due time the island yines set fruit and 
produced an abundant crop. 

The prevailing winds of this locality are in winter west, 
or those directions into which west enters. They vary 
from south-west to north-west, seldom east or south-east. 

In spring, east and north-east winds prevail nearly half 
the time. They vary from east to west, and north-east 
to south, but seldom north-west. In some of the spring 
months, usually March or April, east and north-east winds 
are the prevailing ones. In others westerly. 

In summer, south-west winds prevail, varying from 
south to west. East and west winds are frequent, but 
very few north-west or south-east. 

In autumn, westerly winds are prevalent, varying to 
south-west and south, but a westerly direction enters into 
two-thirds of the winds of this season. 

Taking the yearly average, probably two-thirds of the 
winds are south-west, west and north-west. 

Light showers or falls of snow come with westerly 
winds, as also the summer thunder-storms, but the long 


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rains and snow-storms are attended by an easterly wind. 
The severe and cold wind storms, however, are from the 
west, and it is from this direction that the winds come 
with greatest force, and we receive the storms that are so 
destructive to vessels on the lakes. This prevalence of 
surface winds from the west is only a necessary result of 
that majestic atmospheric current, which, in this temper- 
ate zone, is ever silently but unceasingly sweeping round 
the globe. 

As the amount of precipitation of moisture, in the 
form of rain and snow, depends upon the vicinity of large 
water surfaces, it would naturally be supposed that the 
climate of Michigan should be a moist one. But the 
contrary is the case. In fact, the peninsula climate is 
exceedingly dry, if we consider the total amount of rain- 
fall. The cause will be apparent when we consider the 
source from which our rains come, and the relation that 
subsists between the rainfall and the temperature. 

The Gulf of Mexico undoubtedly furnishes the great 
source of supply to the atmosphere east of the plains. 
The vapor-laden trade winds, coming from the warm 
tropic seas, carry their volume of moisture over the Gulf 
States, where large quantities are precipitated. As it is 
borne further inland this supply meets the great current 
of south-westerly winds, and is carried north and east 
with a constantly diminishing amount of precipitation. 
From the gulf coast, where it is greatest, to the lakes, 
the rainfall has gradually diminished ffom the large mean 
annual amount of 60 inches to 28 inches. 

The result would probably be quite uniform were 
there no diversities of surface to cause local differences. 

The same effect is visible, to a less extent, along the 


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Atlantic coast, where the easterly winds contribute to 
the supply. 

To a still less extent this effect is apparent in the 
vicinity of the lakes. The total rainfall is two to four 
inches greater in the interior of the peninsula than on 
the immediate borders. 

The law which prevails in Europe, of an excess of 
precipitation upon the mountain summits and elevated 
plains, does not hold generally in the United States, 
where rather a contrary law obtains. The high plateaus 
— even the elevated chain of the Alleghenies — have less 
of both summer and annual precipitation than the lower 
lands on either side. Our peninsula, which is a plateau 
not exceeding 1000 feet above the ocean, is no exception 
to the rule. 

This phenomenon is doubtless due to the lower tem- 
perature of the higher lands, during the season of greatest 
precipitation, and shows that general rather than local 
causes govern the rainfall throughout the whole country. 
The cooler summer atmosphere, which we have seen to 
be the effect of the near vicinity of the lakes, contributes 
to this result, and will explain in part, no doubt, the 
comparative dryness of the Michigan climate. 

With the exception of the gulf coast this portion of the 
Untied States belongs to the great area of equally dis- 
tributed rains, one that has no defined rainy seasons. 

We have, consequently, no periodic rains, although the 
periods of most abundant rains are looked for quite regu- 
larly in the summer and the early autumn months. It is 
usual to expect the ** equinoctial storm,'* as it is called, 
— a rainy period of several days, — about the end of Sep- 
tember ; but even this is quite uncertain, both as to its 
duration and even its occurrence. 


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During the heat of summer our rains occasionally 
assume a character suited to the tropical vehemence of 
the temperature, and pour down with great profusion 
though their duration is short. 

A peculiar phenomenon of the rain storms in this local- 
ity is that they occur so frequently under the cool shades 
of the night, preceded and followed by cloudless days. 

Although the amount of rainfall is so small in this dis- 
trict, I think it will be found, were the records sufficiently 
extended, that the number of days on which some rain or 
snow falls is as great as in more southerly districts, where 
the annual amount is twofold. 

That our atmosphere is little, if at all, affected by the 
diffuse evaporation from the surrounding water surfaces 
is evident from its great clearness, the intense azure of its 
sky, and the brilliancy of its moonlight and star canopy. 

The region of the lakes is noted also for its beautiful 
sunsets. In this, as well as in the transparency of its at- 
mosphere, it excels the Eastern States, and more than 
rivals far-famed Southern Europe. Talk of the blue skies 
of Italy ! We have more clear firmament, and of a deeper 
depth of blue, in one month than Italy in half the year. 

To exhibit clearly our relation to the surrounding ter- 
ritory would require charts of the isohyetal lines. In 
the absence of these, a brief statement may serve to con- 
vey a proximate idea. 

In broad terms, the area of 8 to 9 inches spring rain- 
fall includes the whole Michigan peninsula. The cen- 
tral and western portions have nearly one inch more than 
the eastern, and at Mackinaw and St. Mary's the total 
has diminished to about 5 inches. 

The area of 9 to 10 inches summer rainfall includes 
all the lakes and Lower Canada. There is but little 


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variation throughout the peninsula ; 9 inches represent- 
ing fairly the eastern side, and 10 inches the central and 

The autumn rainfall has about the same general aver- 
age, but diminishes to about 8 inches at the north, • or to 
the same mean as Wisconsin. 

The average winter precipitation is about 5 inches ; 
somewhat less on the east side of the State, and about 
one and a half inches more in the interior and west. 

The total annual precipitation is 30 to 31 inches on 
the east side, increasing south and west to 34 inches, and 
diminishing to 25 inches at Mackinaw. The average for 
the whole peninsula is 33 inches. 

Comparing these means with those which obtain at a 
small remove, we find that a summer rainfall of from ten 
to twelve inches (or two to three inches in excess of De- 
troit) crowds closely up lakes Michigan, Erie and On- 
tario, and sweeps over the lower half of Wisconsin, and 
as far north and west as St. Paul. 

The winter precipitation increases rapidly as we ad- 
vance south from Lake Erie, being fully seven inches 
through the north part of Ohio and Indiana (or two 
inches above the mean of Michigan), and increases to 
eleven inches at Cincinnati. 

Proceeding south from Michigan the total annual pre- 
cipitation increases at the rate of about three inches for 
every degree of latitude, to the Ohio River, where it is 
forty-eight inches, or fifteen inches more than the mean 
of Michigan. 

At 95 deg. longitude the mean annual precipitation is 
about the same as at Detroit. But thence westward the 
diminution is rapid, and at the meridian of 100 deg. it is 
scarcely more than half that amount. 


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From the lakes to the Atlantic we find a gradual in- 
crease, from an annual mean of thirty-two inches to 
forty-four inches. 

Thus notwithstanding our insular position, the cli- 
mate of this region proves to be the dryest in the United 
States east of the headwaters of the Mississippi. But 
the rains are very equally distributed, through all but 
the winter months, which have only one-sixth of the 
entire precipitation. Crops, therefore, seldom suffer from 
the want of moisture, even in the dry periods. 

South of the Ohio the winters have one-third of the 
whole precipitation — equal to that of the summer. 

Having considered the character of the seasons and 
our relation to neighboring parts of the continent, as re- 
gards the average measures of precipitation, let us notice 
and compare the monthly fluctuations.''*' 

At Detroit the smallest quantities fall in the months 
of December and February ; the mean of thirty-eight 
years being 1.3 and 1.4 inches, respectively, and that of 
the three winter months being 1.7 inches. 

• From February to June appears a gradual increase, 
largest for March and April, when it rises to 2.9, the 
mean of the spring being 2.8 inches. 

In June, which is the month of largest precipitation, 
there is an increase to 3.9 inches, the mean of the sum- 
mer being 3.1. From June there is a falling off during 
the remaining summer months. 

The mean for September rises to 3.3 inches, that of 

* Comparing these measures with the "Table of Mean Tempera- 
ture and Rainfall of the Seasons," given in the " Additional Observations," 
following this Essay, it will be seen that the figures above given require 
some modifications. These, however, do not affect the general deduc- 


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autumn being 2.4, and falls again through the remainder 
of the year. 

These results show a tendency to two minima, in De- 
cember and February, and to two maxima, in June and 

The June freshet is looked for quite uniformly, and 
with more certainty than the floods which attend the 
melting of the snow in the spring, although the latter 
often exceed in temporary height and violence. 

A table of the average precipitation for the seasons 
and months, for different places, from the Gulf to the 
coast of New England, exhibits very considerable con- 
trasts. It would be interesting to examine them if we 
had the time. 

For my present purpose I will advert to the fact only 
that there exists a general tendency to minima of pre- 
cipitation about the middle or end of winter, and of 
maxima about midsummer. 

Grouping the results, it may be stated that on or near 
the coast of New England the tendency is to one mini- 
mum in February of about three inches, and three 
maxima, in May four inches, August and November 4.5 
to 4 inches. 

Through. Central New York one minimum, February, 
of 2 inches, and one maximum, June or July, 3.5 inches. 

In the Lake region, west of Lake Erie, one minimum 
in February, of 1.4 inches, and one maximum in June, 
3.5 inches. 

In the Ohio Valley one minimum, January and Feb- 
ruary, of 3 inches, and one maximum about June, 4.5 

On the Gulf coast two minima, April, 2 inches, and 


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November, 3 inches, and one maximum, in July, 6 to 8 

The minimum of February at Detroit is less than one- 
twentieth, and the maximum of June nearly one-eighth 
of the whole average annual rainfall. In other words, 
the mean of February is i.i inch below the average 
mean of the months ; that of June is oiie inch above the 
average mean. 

On the diagram is shown the annual precipitation, run- 
ning through the mean of the several months, at represen- 
tative stations within the group referred to, including also 
the upper Mississippi. These few curved lines represent 
very closely, and as far as may be done from so few 
data, the rainfall through the year, over the whole 
United States, east of the great plains. 

The remark is frequently made that our climate is un- 
dergoing a permanent change. Many think it is becom- 
ing drier, which is by some attributed to the destruction 
of the forests ; according to others it is becoming perma- 
nently colder also. 

These popular opinions suggest a very interesting in- 
quiry. For the present it may be a sufficient answer 
that the statistics of the rainfall, as well as those of the 
temperature, do not verify such conclusions. 

Throughout this region, from the Atlantic to the Mis- 
sissippi, north of the Ohio, the fluctuations, both annual 
and for a series of years, are very gr^at, and they show a 
tendency to an irregular grouping of years in which the 
rainfall is in excess, and of those in which it is in diminu- 
tion of the mean. This is governed by no known or ap- 
parent law, and though in the main there is a general 
agreement throughout the region, yet considerable and 


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remarkable differences occur, even at points not widely 

Diagrams for all this region indicate an average in- 
crease of the rainfall from about 1837 until about 1862, 
and this fact contradicts the prevalent opinion of increas- 
ing dryness. Since that period a general decrease is ob- 
servable in this region. 

Within this first series of years occur one period of 
greatly diminished rainfall, common to the diagrams for 
New England, New York, Southern Michigan and Ohio, 
viz., from 1835 to 1845, averaging 10 to 15 percent, be- 
low the mean for each district, and one period of increased 
rainfall, viz., from 1848 to 1862, which averages 10 to 
20 per cent, above the mean. 

Successive years, however, frequently show great ir- 
regularity in the amounts, sometimes falling from 20 to 
30 per cent, above the mean of the place to as much 
below, within a period of two or three years, breaking 
in so violently upon the average as to render any gener- 
alization very difficult. 

For the sake of comparison I select from each of the 
districts named three years of greatest and of least rain- 
fall, and bring them together, exhibiting the percentage 
which each attains above and below the yearly mean of 
the district. 

A comparison of these maxima and minima serves to 
show how extremely local are the causes of the differ- 
ences ; how small, is the correspondence between the lo- 
cations for the same years, while it does not indicate 
any decided differences in the variability in the different 

« See Part III. — "Periodical Changes," etc.— for more recent conclu- 
sions — 1887. 


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Years of greatest 

above mean. 

Years of greatest 

Per cent, 
below mean. 

New England 

New York . . 

Southern Mich- 

















The range at Detroit (between highest maximum and 
lowest minimum) is fully fifty-five per cent, of the annual 
mean, which does not differ greatly from that of the 
other districts, though in excess of the eastern ones, but 
at St. Paul the range is much greater. There the mean 
of the year is only twenty-five inches, while the range, 
in nineteen years' observation, is from forty-one to 
eighteen inches, or over 100 per cent. 

The accompanying diagram will exhibit at a glance 
ther annual fluctuations in the rainfall at Detroit since 
1834. Each column represents the precipitation of the 
year, and the amount in inches is shown by the figures 
at the side. The curved line is an attempt at a general- 
ization of the several means.* 

To the facts we have been considering, and which have 
relation to our situation relative to the great sources of 
supply, as well as to the plateau character of the country, 
is due our comparative exemption from destructive flood- 
ing rains and deep snows. Neither the lakes nor the 
peninsula streams overflow their banks, causing such de- 

♦ For this diagram see " Additional Observations ** — Part II. — where the 
columns are extended to date, 1887. 


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vastations as are common in the States east and south of 
us. And in winter railroad trains are seldom blocked by 
snow, as frequently happens in this latitude. 

The same cause which frees this locality from the in- 
conveniences of deep snow also deprives us in many win- 
ters of sufficient snow for the ordinary winter sledding. 
The increased temperature, due to the extensive and 
open water surfaces around us, causes the snow to melt 
almost as it falls so that it seldom lasts long as a cover- 
ing to the soil. The lower atmosphere, at such times, 
gathers increased humidity, which occasions a sensible 
chill, that is more uncomfortable in its effect than a 
steady cold below the freezing point. 

Yet it is a noticeable fact that fogs are rare with us, at 
any season. 

Our deepest snow and of longest continuance usually 
occurs in February, which is the month of greatest cold.* 

The droughts which prevail, often disastrously, in au- 
tumn throughout Michigan are not peculiar to this dis- 
trict ; although the less quantity of rain at that season, 
than falls over the country east and south, no doubt con- 
tributes to this result. 

The still drier climate west of Lake Michigan, extend- 
ing with increased severity to the great plains, exhibits 
this phenomenon in vastly enhanced proportions. 

Yet to the same cause is due that peculiar and delight- 
ful phenomenon — the Indian summer — which is compar- 
atively little known to the Atlantic States, but which 
constitutes so pleasing a feature in the lake region. 

In a general survey of our seasons the winter at Detroit 
may, as a rule, be classed as ** mild and open.** 

♦The more extended observations — Part II. — show January to be the 
coldest month, by nearly one degree. 


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My notes show nearly two-thirds of the winters for the 
last thirty-eight years to be of this character. These kind 
of winters may be* thus described : A temperature sel- 
dom below o, and frequently above the freezing point ; 
an average temperature i deg. above the winter mean of 
27 deg. ; a few weeks at most — often a few days only — 
of snow sufficient to make sleighing ; many cloudless 
days, though the cloudy ones are in excess ; constant 
alternations of frosty nights and days, with warm and 
damp or rainy ones, yet with a large number of days of 
clear, bracing atmosphere, when the thermometer falls 
below freezing at night and rises a little above it by day ; 
prevailing west and south-west winds, an occasional storm 
that leaves its mantle of snow, followed almost immedi- 
ately, or within a few days at most, by the prevailing 

As a rule, only the " cold " winters are snowy ones — 
winters whose temperature is i deg. or 2 deg. below the 
mean, — when it continues to freeze for several days suc- 
cessively. At such periods the local influences are over- 
borne by the general causes which prevail in this latitude, 
and the cold storms, with their freight of heavy snows, 
sweep over and involve our district in the prevailing 
frigidity. At such times the ground freezes hard, if bare, 
to the depth of two or three feet. Streams are frozen 
over, — our broad river included, — and no longer lend 
their influence to soften the temperature. Winter gath- 
ers strength by its own progress^ and forgets its ordinary 

Of the advance of spring-time my note-books furnish a 
few items which may serve for useful comparison with 
other localities. 


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The first of the forest trees to be animated by the gen- 
ial breath are the poplar, willow, elm and ihaple. These 
are in flower from April i to 20, the average for the two 
latter. being April 7. The earliest period on my records 
is in 1845, March 11. 

Wild flowers make their appearance about the middle 
of April to 1st of May. 

Those cultivated fruits, peach and cherry, come into 
bloom about a month later than the forest maple and 
elm, — 20th of April to middle of May, — the average being 
May 8th. Pear and apple follow, 1st to 20th of May ; 
average about May 12th. 

The forests now begin to show a green tint, but the 
perfection of the leaf is not attained until late in June. 

We have seen how much the heats of summer are 
moderated by our situation. Yet, notwithstanding, our 
climate, like that of the whole temperate zone, is one of 
fierce extremes ; indeed, at times most fitfully intemper- 
ate, and making us acquainted, under the same sky, with 
the winter of the Arctic regions and the summer of the 
tropics. There are days in our short summers that 
fairly belong to the equator, which blaze and quiver 
with sunshine like a furnace, and when vegetable growth 
may actually be measured in its hourly increase. 

There are days in our rigorous winters when the 
frosted air cuts like a knife, when storm so follows storm, 
in all the grandeur of the season, that for a time the 
landscape is obliterated, every familiar object buried out 
of sight beneath the congealed and hoary breath of the 
storm god. 

" No cloud above, no earth below, 
A universe of sky and snow." 



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But neither heated nor frozen '* terms " ordinarily 
last many days at a time. Changes are sudden and vio- 
lent, from one extreme of temperature to the opposite. 

" Dry " seasons are often accompanied by flooding 
rains ; frosts follow a period of hot days, and they have 
been known to occur — though very rarely, as in 1859 — 
in every month of the year. 

Between the spring and the autumn of our climate there 
is a striking contrast. For while the spring of the Eng- 
lish poets, so familiar to our early literature, — breathing 
balm, and leading by slow gradations into summer, — 
scarcely exists here, where often winter lingers into May, 
and spring leaps at a bound into the arms of summer, or 
cheats us with successive storm, cold and wet, the au- 
tumn time is the most enjoyable of the year, and is in 
grateful contrast to the dull, wet season of Europe. 

As a rule, our first two autumn months are pleasant, 
cool and dry, and sometimes this agreeable weather is pro- 
tracted into the first month of winter. But this season, too, 
is changeable, and nearly one-fourth of the years on my 
calendar are classed as mild and wet or wet and cold. 

This great and constantly recurring irregularity of the 
seasons gives disappointment to those who seek to form 
predictions of the weather, based upon observations of 
previous years. 

My own notes are so general in character that they 
meet ill 'the strict demands of science. Yet some of the 
conclusions drawn from them may be worthy of record. 

Winters which, in popular language, are called '* mild 
and open," are ordinarily succeeded by " warm and early " 
springs, the proportion to those which are *' cold and 
late ** being about two to one. 


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Cold and snowy winters are certain to be followed by 
cold and backward springs. To this law my records 
show no exception. 

Warm and pleasant summers, if succeeded by dry and 
pleasant autumns, are followed, as a rule (not without 
exceptions), by mild and open winters. 

Cold summers and autumns are ordinarily succeeded by 
cold winters, the exceptions being as about one to two. 

Warm and early springs are, as a rule, followed by 
warm and pleasant summers, the proportions of such to 
cold and wet summers being nearly four to one. 

Cold and late springs, it may be expected, will be fol- 
lowed by cold or wet summers, but they are almost as 
frequently succeeded by warm and dry. 

Though there is an approach to some measure of regu- 
larity in the character of the seasons for a succession or 
group of years, no certain law is apparent, but a warm or 
a cold, a wet or a dry year is likely to be succeeded by 
one or more of like character, before the character is 

Upon the whole, notwithstanding the great range of 
climatic phenomena, and the extreme diversity of certain 
seasons and years, the observations of even the last 
thirty-nine years — short as is that period for scientific de- 
ductions — show our climate to be constant and uni- 
form, returning always to the average standard of heat 
and moisture. 

Popular opinion pronounces some extraordinary ex- 
treme to be " unprecedented *' within the memory of 
that very unreliable character, "the oldest inhabitant." 
But science, from whose stern decrees there is no ap- 
peal, declares it to be but local and temporary, and part 
of those ever recurring features which, in the cycle of 


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the years, only furnish proof of the stability and uni- 
formity of nature. 

In the natural divisions of the seasons another con- 
trast appears between our climate arid that of Europe, 
which, though less marked in the vicinity of the lakes, 
is yet a noted difference throughout the temperate zone 
of America. 

The divisions of the calendar year appear much 
more arbitrary as applied to our circumstances, and show 
that they were meant for another hemisphere. 

In attempting a classification better suited to our cli- 
mate, if we define ** winter" as the period of hard frosts 
and completely dormant vegetation, that season will 
embrace not merely a fourth part, but nearly half of the 
entire year, or from November to the middle of April in- 
clusive, five and a half months. 

If we call "spring" the period between the flowering 
of the earliest trees and shrubs or the first opening buds 
and the full development of the leaves, that season will 
have its average beginning about the middle of April 
and its end the middle of June, two months. 

The reign of " summer,'* the season of the full perfec- 
tion of vegetable growth, holds from the middle of June 
to the middle of September, three months. 

" Autumn," the season of the ripening of the fruits of 
the earth and the gradual decadence of vegetable life, 
lasts from the middle of September to November, one 
and a half months. 

In the more genial atmosphere of the lakes, as I have 
already noted, the autumnal season is often much more 
protracted, and cheats the colder months of a portion of 
their supremacy. The bland airs of the Indian summer 
help to prolong the illusion ; but it is only an interloper, 


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and, in general, by November the hard frosts have set in, 


" Winter comes to rule the varied year." 

I cannot close these remarks without adverting to the 
substantial advantages which our climate possesses, espe- 
cially that of the lake region, over most others on the 

If it is often excessive in its extremes, it has not the 
great daily range which in arid climates is so severely felt, 
causing a benumbing coldness to the nights after the op- 
pressive heat of the day. 

If we have sometimes droughts, to the injury of the 
crops, we have not those periodic seasons of completely 
dry weather, when no rain falls for many weeks, or even 
months ; when vegetation can be sustained only by irriga- 
tion, and the atmosphere is charged with dust, features 
that so greatly detract from the excellences of California. 

And if occasional drenching rains flood the growing 
crops, they bring at rare intervals to our doors only slight 
intimations of those deluges which deform the winters 
and the rainy seasons of the South and the Pacific coast, 
or which, in the hill countries, often fill the valleys with 
the debris of ruined homes. 

If severe gales sometimes cause destruction among our 
lake craft, and even, though rarely, uproot our orchards, 
no tornado ever visits upon us its terrific fury, and our 
locality is remarkably free from the sudden and fierce 
storms which are an incident even close to our borders.* 

The disagreeable features are but exceptions to the 
general rule of moderate but sufficient rains for all needs, 
equally distributed throughout the year ; a summer tem- 
perature, which rapidly quickens into active life the hi- 

*In 1875 I^etroit was visited by a small cyclone, the only one known 
within the memory of the " oldest inhabitant." — 1887. 


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bernating earth, and in its fervors gives to our zone some 
of the productive power of the tropics, enabling it to 
bring to perfection the bountiful maize and other tropical 
plants, and especially those various and valuable fruits 
that attain their perfection only in our clime — the apple, 
pear, peach, plum and grape. 

" Whatever fruits in different climes are found, 
That proudly rise or humbly seek the ground ; 
Whatever blooms in torrid tracts appear, 
Whose bright succession decks the varied year ; 
Whatever sweets salute the northern sky, 
With vernal lives that blossom but to die ; 
These here disporting own the kindred soil." 


It must be acknowledged that our climate, like that of 
this continent generally, is a very trying one to the aver- 
age American constitution. Its dryness and its frequent 
and excessive changes seem to sap from the body that 
juiciness of the blood which, under the moist and equable 
skies of England, blooms into ruddy complexions and 
swells into plump outlines. 

Perhaps the climate is not alone responsible for the evil. 
Much is attributable to our mode of life ; the incessaat 
application to business, in the haste to be rich ; or too 
much of indoor life and want of proper exercise in the 
open air. Our boys cannot be said to be pale and sickly, 
and they brave the weather in all its rudeness. 

Though the climate of Detroit partakes of the general 
character, it does so to a modified degree. I believe it is 
admitted that our locality is remarkable for its healthful- 
nessand freedom from endemic diseases. I put the ques- 
tion to our professional and well informed President,* 
whether Detroit is not even abominably healthy ! 

* Dr. Andrews. 


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Nature is full of compensations. The perpetual sum- 
mer of torrid climes is enervating to mind and body. 
Even in our Southern States, agriculture, the basis of 
wealth, must be carried on by an inferior race. 

Do the people who have been brought up in a clime 
where summer is eternal appreciate in their full measure 
those gifts of bountiful nature whose enjoyment is not 
enhanced by their occasional loss ? Does the never-end- 
ing succession of flowers and fruits compensate for the 
absence of the ** seasons,*' the return of spring, summer 
and autumn, after the dearth of winter ; for that period 
of biting cold and storm without, and blazing hearths 

" king of intimate delights, 

Fireside enjoyments, home-born happiness," 

enhancing even by its bitter contrast the enjoyableness 
and bloom of summer ? 

Where but in such a clime as ours, marked so emphat- 
ically by the revolutions of the seasons, with their cold 
and heat, and all their pleasing variety and change, 

" Forever charming, and forever new," 

do the arts flourish best and man attain his highest perfec- 
tion? Happy the land which enjoys the promise of 
spring and the realization of autumn ; where the fruits of 
the earth are secured only by unremitting care and labor ; 
where a frigid temperature strengthens those active ener- 
gies that droop in a warmer clime ; and where the glories 
of summer, being only an occasional gift, are more wel- 
come from the contrast, and more thoroughly appre- 
ciated and enjoyed. 


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Part XL — Additional Observations. 

SINCE the foregoing essay on the climate of Detroit 
was written, ten years and more have passed. This 
considerable extension of the series available for scien- 
tific deduction enables me to supplement the first essay 
by some additional observations. 

Attention is at once attracted to the very considerable 
increase in both the temperature and the rainfall during 
the last decade. 

This increase, amounting to about one degree in the 
mean annual temperature, and to seven inches in the 
mean annual precipitation, brings up the mean tempera- 
ture of the whole fifty-year series from 47° — the sup- 
posed standard in 1874 — ^to 47.9® in 1886; and the 
mean of the rainfall from about 31 inches to 32 inches. 

These facts serve to bring scientific observation into 
more confirmed opposition to the popular opinion, that 
our climate is becoming colder. They show, in fact, that 
Detroit has a somewhat warmer climate than has been 
generally accredited, and also a liability to greater ex- 

The diagram of the rainfall published with the above 
mentioned essay indicated for this region an average in- 
crease from about 1837 until 1862, and after that year a 
general decrease. As that record closed, in 1874, another 
period of increased precipitation had begun. It con- 


Digitized by 


FROM 1874 TO 1886. 451 

tinued to 1881, culminating in 1880 in a register of 47.7 
inches, the maximum of the entire semi-centennial series. 
Simultaneously, the mean annual temperature advanced, 
until it attained 51 ° in 1881 and 1882, or nearly the max- 
imum of the whole series. 

Since 1880 the columns of annual rainfall have dimin- 
ished quite steadily, standing in 1884 at 28.2 inches, rising 
to 30 inches in 1885, and again falling to 25 inches in 1886. 

The temperature has also fallen, and we seem to be 
once more on the downward scale. As even a half-cent- 
ury is an insufficient period to establish a certainly cor- 
rect average, it is not at all improbable that the means as 
determined in 1874, of 30 to 31 inches annual rainfall, and 
47® annual temperature, may approach more nearly the 
true standard than the higher means accorded by the half- 
century record. We are justified, however, in adopting 
the new means, which, being the results of the longest 
series possible, are at least likely to be substantially ac- 

Let us now inquire what changes, if any,, the added 
years have brought to light in the maxima and minima 
of temperature. 

The highest temperature noted up to 1874 Was 98° 
and the lowest — 18°. We must now concede to the rec- 
ord of extremes 100*^ maximum, and — 20° minimum, the 
highest extreme having been reached in July, 1878, and 
the lowest in February, 1875. The minimum of — 18° 
has been reached five times within the half-century, viz., 
in 1852, '57, '64, '73 ai^d '79- That of — 14° four times, 
— in 1855, '56, 'S9 and *67. That of — 10*^ four times, 
— in i860, '61, '66 and '72. 

The maximum rainfall of 47.7 inches has been reached 
since 1874, as also the extremes of 45 inches, 43 inches, 


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and 40 inches, within the same period; the year 1855 
only, outside of this period, exhibiting so high an ex- 
treme as 43 inches. The three dryest years are 1845, 
'65 and '7^ ^^ch having about 22 inches only. 

From the means of thie years let us proceed to those of 
the SeasonSy as determined from the monthly means of 
the fifty-year period. 

These I tabulate as follows : 





THE SEASONS— 1835 TO 1 886. 











OS .5 

















































Of these means various combinations may be formed 
which, while curious in themselves, serve to show how 
equally distributed are the temperature means through- 
out the year, and also the relations which the several 
seasons bear to each other and to the year. 

Thus as regards the temperature, the means of winter 
and summer combined (96.3°) correspond quite closely 
with those of spring and autumn, which are i ° only less 


Half the mean of each of these couples of seasons rep- 
resents the mean temperature of the year. The mean of 

* In making up the winter means of any year that of the December of 
the year preceding is used, so as to bring into the winter measures the 
months which are in juxtaposition. 


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i83S TO 1886. 453 

spring is 2.7° below; while that of autumn is 2° above 
the yearly mean. 

If we add together the means of any month with 
those of the months corresponding in place in the other 
seasons, we find their combined means to represent very 
nearly the annual mean. Thus, the means of December, 
March, June and September equal 47.4° ; those of Janu- 
ary, April, July and October equal 48.7° ; those of Feb- 
ruary, May, August and November equal 47.7 ° . 

The mean of winter a little exceeds half of the autumn 
mean, and equals one-seventh exactly the sum of the 
means of all the seasons. The mean of summer temper- 
ature is 36 per cent, of the sum of the seasons. That of 
autumn, 26 per cent.; that of spring, 23 per cent.; that of 
winter, 14 per cent. 

Turning to the rainfall^ the table shows that the spring 
and autumn means nearly equal each other ; the former 
being 26 per cent., and the latter 25 per cent, of the an- 
nual precipitation. The summer rainfall is the largest, 
corresponding with the season of highest temperature, 
and is 30 per cent, of the entire precipitation. The win- 
ter precipitation is about two-thirds that of summer, 
being 19 per cent, of the yearly mean. 

To these notes, showing the mean characters of our 
seasons, I add a table of seasonal fluctuations (see p. 456). 

These figures show the extent of range, and conse- 
quent diversity of our seasons in different years. 

The tables will prove useful for reference in the 
future consideration of our climatology. 

The accompanying diagram of the annual rainfall for 
the semi-centennial period under review has been ex- 
tended from the diagram first published with the essay of 


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50-year period. 















187 1 

II. 9 













It may be noticed, in proof of the long period which is 
required to give accuracy to averages, that for the first 
half of this period, in fact down to 1874, the yearly pre- 
cipitation but little exceeded a mean of 30 inches, while 
the last half shows a mean of 34 inches, and the last 
decade a mean of 37.5 inches. The mean of the whole 
period is found to be 32 inches. 

To exhibit in another form and at a single glance the 
means of annual temperature y I subjoin a diagram cor- 
responding to that of the rainfall. For more full compar- 
ison are added the means of summer and winter, and 
also the annual rainfall. With the aid of this diagram 


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, Winter. , , Year. , , Summer. - 






t > 
> z 

r ^ 


2 ^ 
2 S 

oo O 


M Z 





r 8 ^ S) Y5 ^ Temp. t, Degrees 

Rainfall g^ &'g'§.-gt-fe Inches. 



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and our tabular statements, the relations of precipitation 
to temperature, and of the temperature of the seasons to 
each other, and to the year, may be readily seen. 

The vertical lines represent the years, the horizontal 
lines the temperature means, and the rainfall. For the 
summer and winter temperature each horizontal line rep- 
resents 2 ^ . For those of the year each line represents 
i^. For the rainfall (shown by dotted line) each hori- 
zontal line represents 2 inches. 

Having laid before the reader a chart of the tempera- 
ture and rainfall of the past half-century, we may inquire 
whether, cTut of the great and diverse fluctuations, it is 
possible to group the years into any marked series of dry 
and wet, warm and cold. Do the weather records sus- 
tain the old theory of the French habitants, that these 
changes follow a seven-year period ? 

For the sake of trial, I will here dispose the years since 
1836 into groups of seven each, as in the following table: 

1837-43 • 
1844-50 . 
1851-57 . 
1865-71 . 
1872-78 . 
1879-85 ■ 





























We see from this table a disposition on the part of the 
temperature element to follow the supposed law for the 


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first four periods ; but the remaining three ignore it abso- 
lutely. On the part of the precipitation there appears no 
correspondence with any such law. 

That there is a tendency to recurring periods of high 
and low, in both elements, we have seen. Can we arrange 
these into any system of grouping which shall show a 
correspondence between them, — a system that shall not 
be so broken in upon by violent and opposite extremes, 
in single years or in small groups of years, as to defy 
classification ? 

Both the temperature and the rainfall are susceptible 
of being grouped in periods of from ten to twelve years, 
showing a quite uniform recurrence of the same condi- 
tions. But after many attempts so to group these as to 
exhibit a correspondence between the two elements with- 
in the same intervals, — recurring periods common to each, 
— the task was found to be hopeless. But the investiga- 
tion finally led me to a discovery of the true relation 
which exists between the two elements, and of the law 
which seems to govern. The results appeared to be of 
sufficient importance to be very fully set forth. This 
I have attempted in a separate essay, forming Part III. 
of these observations upon our climate, and to this the 
interested reader is referred. 

But apart from periodical forms of change, how great 
have been the annual fluctuations ! Extreme wet and 
extreme dry years are not always separated by consider- 
able intervals, but the differences between contiguous 
years are often great. (See diagram of rainfall.) 

Thus immediately succeeding 1844, with its rain col- 
umn at 34 inches, followed one of the dryest, 1845, with 
its rainfall of only 22.5 inches. In the midst of the 
high rainfall period, during which, in 1855, ^^^^ precipi- 


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tation rose to 42.5 inches, the column fell the next year 
to 28.5 inches. During the long decline succeeding, the 
column dropped, in 1865, to 21.3 inches, — the lowest on 
my records. From this the recovery was gradual, to 
the next high culmination of 36 inches, in 1868. In 
1 87 1 the rainfall was again reduced to 22.6 inches, from 
which low point it mounted by regular gradations, to its 
extremest height, in 1880, of 47.7 inches. 

These extremes indicate a total range of twenty-five 
inches, or more than three-fourths of the mean annual 

Fluctuations in the temperature exhibit a range con- 
siderably greater, from 760 in 1858 — the highest summer 
mean — to 190 in 1875 — the lowest winter mean; being a 
divergence of 57^,or a fifth more than the annual mean. 
The mean annual or periodical temperatures are, however, 
quite uniform, compared with those of the rainfall. 

The decade of years that have been added to observa- 
tion since my essay of 1874 serves to confirm the re- 
mark then made, as to the equal distribution of the rain- 
fall throughout the seasons in this favored locality. And 
while no important differences are shown in regard to 
the means of the seasons, and their relations to places 
east and west of Detroit, as pointed out in my former 
remarks on ** The Effect of the Lakes upon the Temper- 
ature,'* these are sufficient to modify in some particulars 
the comparisons then instituted, while they tend rather 
to confirm than diminish the favorable aspects. 

Among sundry weather predicates, I there laid down 
the following : — " Cold and snowy winters are certain to 
be followed by cold and backward springs. To this law 
my records show no exception." The year 1884 would 
almost cls^im to be considered an exception to the rwle. 


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But notwithstanding its continuance of cold and snow, 
the mean temperature of the winter (1883 and 1884) was 
20 above the normal, while the spring was but 1.50 above. 
So the exception is apparent only. Continued observa- 
tion has only served to confirm the law thus laid down. 

It is a not uncommon remark, often heard at the close 
of a very severe winter, that the succeeding spring will 
be of an opposite character ; the idea being that nature 
is bound to afford this result by way of compensation. 
But such criticism ignores the fact that nature takes her 
own time for her compensations, and seldom or never in 
the precise way, or at the exact time, which our imper- 
fect faculties demand. In fact the case is exceptional in 
which an extreme year, whether of heat or cold, drought 
or wet, is immediately followed by one of a reverse char- 
acter. But the change is sure to come. Man needs only 
to extend his observation, and to carefully treasure his 
facts, to find nature working by uniform and unerring 
laws. Nay more, that the hardships of her extremes are 
fully compensated by ever recurring benefits. 

"From seeming evil still educing good, 
And better thence again, and better still, 
In infinite progression." 


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Part III. — Periodical Changes in the Lake Lev- 
els, Rainfall, Temperature and Sun-Spots; 
AND Their Relations to Each Other. 

CONNECTED with our considerations upon the cli- 
mate is a subject which has excited great interest 
since the first settlement of the country, and about which 
much has been written, for the most part vaguely. I allude 
to the variations in the levels of the lake waters. 

Many causes contribute to create a perpetual fluctua- 
tion, or rise and fall, in these inland seas. 

First. A possible lunar tide; but so small and so 
broken in upon by greater causes as to be of very un- 
certain value. 

Second. The winds, which often cause a difference in 
level of many feet ; strong westerly winds causing a rise 
at one place, and easterly winds at another. These 
changes are irregular and transient, but often considera- 
ble in amount, ranging from two to five feet. 

Third. Annual variation attendant upon the seasons 
and confined to the year. This kind of fluctuation is 
a winter and summer movement. The supply from 
streams and rains being wholly or partially checked in 
the cold season, the water is gradually drawn away, low- 
ering the general level, which reaches its lowest ebb 
about January or February. As spring advances, with 



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melting snows and increased rainfall, the waters rise 
gradually, and attain their greatest height in June or 
July. They then begin to fall again to their winter 
level. The extreme of this variation is about 2.30 feet, 
and is about the same in Lake Erie as in Detroit River. 

Fourth. A rise and fall of the waters of the lakes and 
their connecting channels, extending through several 
years, and amounting to an extreme difference of five 
feet. Upon this kind of fluctuation Col. Chas. Whittle- 
sey has bestowed the name of ** secular variation." 

The causes of this variation were long involved in 
much mystery. According to the old French tradition, 
it is independent of the seasons, and follows periodical 
intervals of seven years. To what extent these intervals 
of high and low water are regular in their recurrence, and 
how far they are connected with meteorological or astro- 
nomical causes, can be determined only after continuous 
and exact observations for a long series of years. 

It is hardly more than a decade since the United 
States Signal Service has given scientific exactness to ob- 
servations, and not over 30 years since thoroughly reliable 
statistics have been tabulated. Records of independent 
observers often differ widely, and though the writer has 
culled from different sources data sufficient to enable him 
to construct a diagram for this region, covering the past 50 
years, and even more, many of these data are of uncer- 
tain value. For a period of 33 years, beginning with 
1853, ^ record has been kept by the Detroit Water Board 
of the daily fluctuations in the level of the river, and par- 
tial records exist of other years since 1835. 

In a comparison between the height of water in the 
river arid the rainfall at Detroit, no conclusions drawn 
from these data will apply rigidly to the lakes above and 


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below. The river levels are influenced not alone by the 
precipitation on its borders, but by the supply from 
above. Other causes contribute to its irregularities, — 
local rains, confined channel, rapid current. While a 
sudden increase in the precipitation will affect the broad 
surfaces of the lakes uniformly, a rise would take place at 
such times in the confined straits to a disproportionate 
extent. In discussing this so-called ** secular ** variation 
it becomes necessary to procure data from outside 

Milwaukee represents well Lake Michigan, and Cleve- 
land, Lake Erie. Each is about half way between the 
head and foot of the lake upon which it is situated, and 
where the changes may fairly be considered as means of 
the whole. From Milwaukee I have a table of the rain- 
fall from 1844 to 1886, and of the *' secular'* variations 
of Lake Michigan from 1859 ^o 1882. Fro'm Cleveland, 
of the rainfall from 1856 to 1886, and of the lake varia- 
tions since 1859. 

At each of these places the standard or plane of refer- 
ence is the high water of 1838. The standard at Detroit 
is an arbitrary one, namely, the water-table at the Hy- 
draulic Works. The mean of the last 50 years is five feet 
below that standard, and corresponds, as nearly as I can 
determine, to one foot below the mean of 1838, and two 
feet below the extreme of June of that year. 

Of the fluctuations of the water prior to the period 
mentioned the only data are derived from the recollec- 
tions of old settlers. These, though often indefinite and 
sometimes faulty, are yet of great value. Dr. Houghton, 
in his report of 1839, gives certain concordant state- 
ments of old inhabitants, going back as far as 1800. In 
a paper published in " Smithsonian Contributions,** Vol. 


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XII., Col. Charles Whittlesey has collected items from all 
sources within his reach, going back as far as 1788. Vague 
as many of these details are, there is so much that is of 
definite value, that it seems to me possible to construct 
a curve of the levels of Lake Erie for the whole period, 
which should exhibit, with tolerable accuracy, the highest 
and lowest extremes at least. As I propose to use these 
aids in formulating certain conclusions, I ought here to 
give the reader opportunity to form his own judgment as 
to their value and authority. 

To begin, it may be taken as universally admitted that 
the lakes were at a higher level in 1838 than at any 
known period before. In confirmation of this is the fact, 
among others, that forest trees of a century's growth and 
more were killed by the high water of that year. Two 
other eras of^ very high water are reported by tradition, 
the one in 1814-15, the other in 1788. * Facts and com- 
parisons reported render it nearly certain that at both 
these periods the levels attained to somewhere near the 
standard of 1838. At the former date much land and 
many buildings were submerged on the Detroit and St. 
Clair rivers. Many statements also bear upon the fact of 
high-water periods between the several dates mentioned. 
Dr. Houghton relates, on the authority of Col. Henry 
Whiting : ** Old inhabitants agree that the water was very 
high in the years 1800 to 1802, roads along Detroit River 
being completely inundated, and even rendered impassa- 
ble." And further, that in 1821 the river began to rise, 
**and in 1828 had again attained the elevation of 1815, 
submerging wharves that had been built in the interval ; 
and it so remained until 1830.'* 

As to low extremes, it seems well ascertained that the 
one of 1819-20 was the lowest known prior to 1841 — 


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the low depression which succeeded the extreme eleva- 
tion of 1838. Presumably it w-as the lowest known dur- 
ing the century. Old Frenchmen of Detroit had no tradi- 
tion of a level below that of 18 19. Statements regarding 
the stage of the water always make reference to the 
acknowledged highest and lowest years. Thus we are 
enabled to fix upon and determine with considerable ex- 
actness the relative values of other low periods. The 
water in 1796 was reported by lake captains to be uni- 
versally low, and indicating a level five feet below the high 
extreme of 1838. From that year, they say, it rose rap- 
idly, and continued to rise until 1800. Colonel Whit- 
tlesey says, ** It was ascertained generally that the water 
was low in 1790, 1796, 1802 and 1 8 10. Between February, 
i8i9,and June, 1838, there was a continual rise, amounting 
to 6 feet 8 inches." Old settlers compare the low stage of 
1802 with that of 1797. In 1806 it was 'reported at 
Cleveland lower than in 1 801-2, and declining regularly 
to 1809-10. At this date it was reported nearly as low 
at Buffalo as in 18 19. From 1828 it was reported as fall- 
ing, and in 1833 was 3 feet 10 inches below June, 1838. 
From this year on we are able to trace the "secular *' 
periods of lake and river with considerable accuracy ; and 
data also exist in regard to other elements which it is 
proposed to include in our discussion. I give two dia- 
grams, intended to exhibit graphically what is shown 
more in* detail in the tables. 

Diagram No. i (page 460) shows the curve of high and 
low water of Lake Erie, from 1788 to 1838, constructed 
in accordance with the above data. In connection with 
it is given the sun-spot curve, from 1769 to 1838, accord- 
ing to Wolfs tables, reference to which will be made 


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5 ^ 

H oo 
<J OO 











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Diagram No. 2 (page 466) gives similar data for the 
term of years from 1834 to 1886, including, in addition to 
the curves of lake levels, those of the rainfall and of 
the temperature (registered at Detroit), and the sun- 
spots, according to Wolf*s tables. 

In these diagrams my endeavor has been to exhibit 
by curved lines the recurring maximum and minimum 
periods, eliminating intermediate and irregular fluctua- 

Confining our attention for the present to the curve of 
Rainfall (diagram No. 2), let us endeavor to ascertain 
whether among the many and often abrupt fluctuations 
it is possible to discover any periodicity. 

The vertical columns represent years. In the portion 
devoted to the rainfall variations the horizontal lines 
represent the number of inches of annual precipitation. 

It will be noted that the years 1836 and 1880 were 
times of excessive rainfall. Between these two extremes, 
and about equidistant, appears another strongly-marked 
period of excess, culminating in 1855. Again, between 
these three maxima are two lesser extremes, culniinating 
in 1844 and 1868. Thus our curved line marks five pe- 
riods of maximum rainfall. 

Of low extremes we note four, which have their cul- 
minations in the years 1839, 1850, i860 and 1871. 

The intervals between extremes vary from 8 to 13 
years, the general mean being 10.8 years. 

Let us now compare with these curves, those immedi- 
ately below, and which represent the periodic changes in 
the levels of Lake Erie during the half-century. 

Here the horizontal lines represent the number of feet 
below the plane of 1838. 

It requires but a glance at the diagram to show that 


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some relationship exists between the lake and rainfall pe- 
riods. The first impression conveyed is that the curves 
are in opposition — that the high in one corresponds with 
the low in the other, and the reverse. But I think the 
true relation will be made to appear when- we notice the 
important fact (which I endeavor to render more appar- 
ent by dotted lines), viz., that the water extremes lag be- 
hind the rainfall extremes, — following them at intervals 
from two to four years. Thus the seeming want pf co- 
incidence is reduced to harmony. It will also appear 
that the rainfall extremes are not only followed invariably 
by corresponding fluctuations in the water levels, but that 
these succeed each other in quite as marked and uniform 

The rainfall maxima of J836, '44, '55, *68 and '80 
have their corresponding extremes in the water maxima 
of 1838, '47, *58, '70 ^"d '82, — the intervals or lag varying 
from two to three years. The rainfall minima of 1839, 
*50, '60, '*]2 and '84 have corresponding lake minima in 
1841, '54, *65, and '75» — the intervals varying from two to 
four years. The mean lag is 2.8 years. The true relation 
— dependence — of the lake periodicities upon those of the 
rainfall is thus clearly shown. 

It will be observed that I have chosen to consider the 
Lake Erie levels rather than those of Detroit River. I 
do so for the reason that the relation of the former to the 
precipitation are more simple and direct, and are not in- 
fluenced by causes already pointed out (page 463), which 
tend to create irregularities in the river. A marked illus- 
tration is shown between the years 1859 ^^^ 1870, — 
where dotted lines represent the rainfall at Milwaukee, 
and the river levels as compare'd with those of Lake Erie, 
— of the effect of excess of precipitation on the lake3 


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above, in keeping up the river to a disproportionate 

I do not consider it necessary to examine the various 
theories which have been broached from time to time, in 
explanation of the lake periodical fluctuations. Nor will 
I undertake to explain all the irregularities of the river 
and lake, which would demand many factors that are 
wanting to the present discussion. It will suffice if I 
have succeeded in making clear the relations which 
exist between the variations of the water levels and )t:he 
rainfall, and in defining their periodicities. Probably 
few at this day would dispute the fact that the rise and 
fall, or " secular " variations, in the waters are dependent 
upon the rainfall. This is the first, to my knowl- 
edge, at demonstration of their true relations. 

Thus far I have not alluded to the important element 
of Temperature in its relation to rainfall. That an inti- 
mate relation exists is an admitted fact ; it shall be my 
endeavor to show what this relation is. 

In the portion of the diagram devoted to the Detroit 
temperature curve, the horizontal lines represent the de- 
grees of mean annual temperature, which varies from 43 °, 
the lowest, to 52°, the highest extreme. Considering 
temperature as a controlling element, we should expect 
to find a close correspondence between its curves and 
those of the rainfall. And we do so find, as is shown 
by the diagram. But, while the maxima and minima 
of the rainfall and the lake are directly as each other, we 
discover that those of the rainfall and the temperature 
are inverse to each other. For a full discussion of the 
relation between these two elements, no doubt we ought 
to take into account other important factors — barometric 


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changes, winds, magnetic and other phenomena. The 
conclusions of this paper are deduced only from the data 
presented. Let us now compare the curves. 

The maximum temperature periods of 1839, '48i *59i 
'70 and '82 at Detroit will correspond to the minimum rain- 
fall periods of 1839, '5o> '60, '^2 and '84, — if we credit to 
the latter a lag or interval behind the temperature pe- 
riods of naught to two years. The minimum temperature 
periods of 1835, *43» *54» '66 and '76 correspond to the 
maximum rainfall years 1836, '44, '55, *68 and '78 to '80, 
with a lag varying from one to four years; the mean of 
the lag being 1.8 years. 

If this showing reverses the commonly received opinion 
that high temperature is followed by extreme rainfall, I 
can only say that the facts, as I find them, do not war- 
rant any other conclusion. Let the reader attempt to 
connect either the maxima or the minima of the curve of 
temperature with the like periods of the rainfall, and he 
will find it necessary to admit intervals of from six to 
nine years, a conclusion which would be inconsistent 
with any influence whatever. 

I now turn to another element, or phenomenon, which 
will be found to have an intimate bearing upon our inves- 

Recently, much speculation has been elicited by the 
ascertained periodicity of spots on the sun*s disc. It is 
now an admitted fact that the increase and decrease of 
the spots affect the magnetic needle, and influence the 
earth's magnetic and electrical condition. The extent to 
which these affect the meteorology of our planet is a 
moot question with the learned on these subjects. 

Some noted observers in Europe and India maintain 


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SUN-SPOT AND LAKE CURVES, 1769— 1834. 471 

the theory of an influence exerted by the sun-spots upon 
the rainfall, and this directly as the number of the 
spots. In this lake region, attempts to establish or 
define these relations have been few and unsatisfactory. 
It will be my part to show that the sun-spots do decid- 
edly influence the temperature, and indirectly the rainfall, 
and that the curves of temperature correspond directly 
with those of the sun-spots. This correspondence holds 
not only as regards the maxima and minima periods, but 
as to the general features of the two curves. 

Wolfs tables of the sun-spots from 1769 to 1882 
show ten periods of maxima, and as many of minima, 
the spots ranging from o in a minimum year to 150 in 
a maximum year. Of these periods, one-half are em- 
braced within the sixty-six years from 1769 to 1834. 
For this cycle there are no reliable statistics of temper- 
ature and rainfall ; so that my data are confined to the 
sun-spots and the lake periods, of which I present a tab- 
ular statement, as supplementary to Diagram No. i. 

Table No. i exhibits in groups : — 

1. The years of maximum and minimum sun-spots 
from 1769 to 1834, according to Wolf's numbers, — the 
maxima and minima in separate columns. 

2. The years of maximum and minimum levels of Lake 
Erie, which are given in feet and tenths below the plane 
of 1838, — the maxima and minima in separate columns. 

3. The lag, or interval in time at which the periodic 
changes in the lake follow inversely those of the sun- 
spots. One column gives the number of years lag of 
the lake maxima behind the sun-spot minima; the 
other of the lake minima behind the sun maxima. 

4. The sun and lake '^ periods'^ In one column are 
given the number of years between each maximum of 


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sun-spots and the next preceding maximum, and, alter- 
nately, the number of years between each minimum of 
spots and the preceding minimum. In the other column 
are given the like data for the lake periods. 



1 769-1834. 





Below 1838 
Feet & Tenths. 







^A C 


























47 I 3-5 









The phenomena which this table makes apparent are: 
First, that what I have called the sun and lake periods ap- 
proximate in length, and the means of each are nearly 
identical, — 12.3 and 12.6 years. Second, that the sun and 
lake periods are not synchronous, but that the changes in 
the lake follow at considerable distance (lag) behind the 
sun-spot times. Also that the lake maxima lag behind 


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SUN-SPOTS, TEMPERATURE, ETC., 1834— 1886. 473 

the sun-spot minima less than do the lake minima behind 
the sun-spot maxima; the means being -respectively 3.5 
and 4.5 years. That is to say, the waters fall more rapidly 
than they rise, by the mean of a year. We shall see 
presently how far these statements tally with the data 
drawn from fuller sources, for the half-century succeed- 

Let us now turn to Diagram No. 2, which exhibits the 
sun-spot curves from 1834 to 1884, paralleled with those 
of the temperature, the rainfall, and the lake. 

We see five " periods *' of sun-spot maxima, culminat- 
ing in the years 1838, '48, '60, '70 and '82 or '83, — the 
number of spots at each varying from 95 to 150. And 
five of sun-spot minima — in the years 1834, '44, '56, '6y 
and '78, the spots in each varying from five to ten. The 
maximum periods recur at intervals of eight to twelve 
years — the mean being 10.6; the minimum periods at 
intervals of ten to twelve years, — the mean being 11 
years. With the aid of the accompanying Table No. 2, 
we may proceed to compare results. 

Table No. 2 aims to give in a succinct form all the data 
which our discussion requires. These are grouped in col- 
umns as follows : 

The first group gives (in three columns) the sun-spot 
data, in the same manner as in Table No. i, viz., the years 
of maxima and minima, the number of spots at each, and 
the lengths of the periods. 

The second or temperature group gives (in two col- 
umns) for those years of maxima and minima which con- 
form to the sun-spot maxima and minima, the degrees of 
temperature (the mean of the year at Detroit), and the 
lengths of the periods. 


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00 CO CO 00 00 00 

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The rainfall has three groups. The first gives for De- 
troit (in three columns) the maximum and minimum 
periods, the precipitation in inches at each, and the lag or 
interval at which each follows, inversely, behind those of 
the temperature. Like data are given for the rainfall at 
Milwaukee and at Cleveland, so far as I possess data, 
omitting the column of lag. 

For the water levels there are two groups, each show- 
ing (in three separate columns) the periodicities, the meas- 
urements in feet and tenths below the plane of 1838, and 
the lag behind the rainfall at Detroit. 

Lastly are given (as in Table No. i) the lag of the lake 
behind the sun-spot periods, — lake maxima behind sun- 
spot minima, and the reverse. 

My aim is to exhibit those fluctuations in the elements 
under discussion which conform to the sun-spot period- 
icities, according to the law which seems to govern, viz., 
temperature directly as the sun-spots ; rainfall inversely 
as the temperature ; lake levels directly as the rainfall, 
and the periodical changes in each, following uniformly 
those of the preceding or influencing element by a lag 
of short interval ; and this increasing in length according 
to the remoteness from the original source of influence. 

When we consider that the sun is itself the ultimate 
source of all our meteorological phenomena, the fact that 
the periods of greater and less energy indicated by spots 
on its disc have a well-marked relationship to the tem- 
perature and rainfall is not surprising. While there are 
many fluctuations for which no solution is attempted, it 
suffices if we are able to point out well-defined maxima 
and minima periodical fluctuations which <:onform to 
each other within small limitations. 

The proof does not rest alone upon the Detroit obser- 


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vations. Though the rainfall at Milwaukee and Cleve- 
land differs, often considerably, in times and amount, from 
the Detroit record, we find a close conformity in the pe- 
riods. In fact, there is almost identity in the periodic 
means of all the elements contained in the table. 

The two columns (on the right of the table) showing 
the lag of Lake Erie behind the sun-spots at each period, 
furnish a remarkable confirmation of the general conclu- 
sions. Comparing the two tables, it will be seen that 
the mean periodicity of the sun-spots is larger for the 
first half-century than for the last, by 1.7 years. Yet the 
same relation to the lake periods is maintained throughout 
both cycles. The lag for the maxima and for the minima 
periods is the same in both tables, the means being 3.5 
years and 4.5 years respectively. This result is not 
merely remarkable ; it would be incomprehensible on any 
other theory than that here contended for. Its truth or 
fallacy the reader has the means of determining if he will 
closely study the details given in the table and the dia- 

Another feature of too much importance to escape at- 
tention is the difference in all the curves between the 
scales of increase and of decrease. This is shown by the 
diagram, and is computable from the tables. Thus, 
the times of increase in the sun-spot curve, from minima 
to maxima, are almost uniformly four years ; those of de- 
crease, or from maxima to minima, six to eight years. 
In the curve of the temperature these periodic times are 
slightly larger in the rising, and slightly less in the falling 
scale. The rainfall and the lake times are more irregular, 
and fall short of such uniform proportions. As regards 
the rainfall at Detroit the case seems to be reversed, the 
rbing scale being accomplished in about seven years, and 


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the falling in about four years. The " secular periods " 
of Lake Erie exhibit about equal scales. During the cycle 
from 1779 to 1834 there is closer correspondence between 
the lake and sun-spot times, the scales being about six 
years and seven years, respectively. Is it not possible 
that the traditional French weather-period of seven years 
connects itself with this recurrence of a period of about 
that length between one change and another? 

Thus the cycle of change is " never ending, still begin- 
ing." On its restless sea, man is tossed at the caprice of 
billows, whose wave-lengths are intervals of eleven years. 
The law of change runs through the scale from cold to 
warm in about four years, repeated after intervals of seven ; 
and through warm to cold in seven years, repeated after 
intervals of four years. Meantime the changes from wet 
to dry are accomplished in equal times, but in reversed 
order, and after a delay of one or two years before the 
concord begins. 

To sum up, it seems to me demonstrated, as regards 
this region : — 

1. That the so-called "secular" changes in the levels 
of the river and lakes are dependent upon the rainfall. 

2. That these changes in their maxima and minima 
fall behind the rainfall extremes in time, varying from 
two to three years. 

3. That the times of maximum and minimum rainfall 
occur inversely as the temperature, and follow after, with 

. mean intervals of one or two years. 

4. That the times of maximum and minimum temper- 
ature occur directly as the sun-spots, with very small or 
no intervals. 

5. That the times of high and low water of the lakes 


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and river follow behind the sun-spots, inversely, by a 
double lag, — of lake behind rainfall and of rainfall be- 
hind sun-spots, — the mean of both being four years. 

6. That the periods of maximum and minimum sun- 
spots, temperature and rainfall have an intimate relation 
to each other, and that this relation appears in the re- 
spective periodicities, which differ but little, while the 
means are nearly identical. 

7. That the scale of increase, or interval from minimum 
to maximum, of the sun-spots and the temperature is 
considerably shorter than the scale of decrease ; the re- 
verse being true as regards the rainfall. And thus the 
intervals between cold and warm years, and between dry 
and wet years, are less than those of the opposite condi- 
tions by about three years. 

The question naturally arises, How far do the con- 
clusions here recorded afford a foundation for forecasting 
the meteorology of the future ? 

If all the wave periods were of equal lengths and 
times, with sufficient allowance made for other factors not 
within our present discussion, we ought to do so with 
exactitude. But though our sovereign governor — the 
sun — exhibits a considerable degree of regularity in the 
increase and decrease of his spots, he has not as yet ad- 
mitted us into the secret either of the cause or of the 
extent and frequency of his variations. 

We have also seen that while the curves of temperature 
and rainfall are controlled by the sun-spot periods, their 
times of maxima and minima are not therefore synchro- 
nous. This is true to some extent as between the sun 
and the temperature, while those of the rainfall are not 
only inverse to, but lag behind, the temperature extremes, 
with varying times. There follows therefore a difference, 


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both in the lengths and the times of the periodicities' of 
each. Owing to this lag, and its variation in time of one 
to five years, it follows that when the temperature curve 
is at its maximum or its minimum, that of the rainfall 
is not necessarily at its lowest or its highest. In fact, 
such a conjunction may be brought about in the progress 
of time, that a wet period may correspond in time to a 
warm one, and vice versUy and yet the law of opposites 
continue absolutely persistent. 

This observation applies with even greater force to 
the lake curves, the lag in which is uniformly greater 
than in those of precipitation. Thus it has happened 
three times within the last half-century that high water 
in Lake Erie has corresponded in time with a high sun- 
spot period. 

Another cause of lack of uniformity in the several 
curves is found in the difference — already alluded to — be- 
tween the lengths of the rising and the falling sides. 
The result is a difference in the intervals between ex- 
treme cold and warm years, and extreme wet and dry 
ones, which would not be the case if the times of in- 
crease and decrease were equal. 

We observe also, in noting the curves of temperature, 
as each approaches its low extreme, a sudden dropping 
of the temperature from a somewhat regular gradation, 
two to five degrees, during one, two or three years. 
And in the approach to maxima a rise nearly as pre- 
cipitate. This has its parallel in the rainfall, — the pre- 
cipitation experiencing a sudden increase in the high ex- 
tremes of from four to thirteen inches, and during low 
extremes of from four to eight inches, within one or two 

In these records of the past century, imperfect as they 


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are, will be found suggestions of more subtle and funda- 
mental laws. The reader may notice a succession of 
three large sun-spot waves or periods followed by three 
lesser ones. They call to mind that succession of waves 
in the sea, called by sailors " the three sisters/* and of the 
three-day weather period with which we are familiar. 
The conjecture may be warranted that we have here an 
indication of a major vibration of a six-period duration. 
It may be that all these cycles are but members of a 
grander whole, whose circles reach beyond our present 
ken, and to a perfect conception of which we may never 
attain, except perchance in that good time coming, when 
man*s knowledge shall equal his aspirations. These con- 
siderations, and many more of which we are in ignorance, 
must enter into a calculation of the true horoscope of 
the future. 

Nevertheless, we know that Nature governs by unvary- 
ing law. Assuming that her periodicities will bring 
about the same average results in the future as in the past 
half-century, I might undertake to be in some sort her 
interpreter of the coming events which cast their shadows 
before, along the pathway of a few unborn years ; pro- 
vided the same latitude be accorded me which was 
claimed by the old almanac-makers, to qualify the record 
with ** about .... these .... days.*' 

Premising that the sun-spot curve, which for five 
years had been on the rising scale, attained its maximum 
in 1883, we may infer that the temperature is now on its 
descending grade, and should reach its minimum by 1889 
or 1890. The yearly mean, which for ten years past has 
maintained an unusually high degree, with small range, 
will fall rapidly five degrees or more. " Look out for ... 
cold .... weather .... about .... these .... years." 


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The rainfall, which, in accordance with its law of op- 
position and of lag, fell in 1886 to the low measure of 25 
inches, is likely to continue small for a year or more to 
come. " Expect a . . . . period of drought .... about 
. • . • this .... time." The increasing precipitation fol- 
lowing should reach its maximum about the beginning 
of the last cycle of the century, though the remaining 
years promise small precipitation. Maxima, or wet pe- 
riods, seem also to be indicated for the years 1903 or '04, 
191 3 and 1924; and low, or dry periods, about 1895 or 
'96, 1909 and 1 91 9 or '20. 

Following these leads, lake and river levels will rise to 
their culminations, it is probable, about 1894, 1906, 1916, 
and 1927, and fall to low levels about 1888, 1899, ^9^2 or 
'13, and 1 92 1. The depression of 1888 is likely to reach 
a lower stage than any experienced since 1841. 

None need be surprised ki the remaining years of the 
century witness disasters to the husbandman from drought 
and frosts, and to the business man from commercial dis- 
asters and stagnation in trade. 

The new century, though opening with cold and wet, 
gives promise, in its first cycle, of returning general pros- 
perity, inaugurated by abundant crops, and — if the na- 
tion be wise — by freer trade, restored commerce, satisfied 
wages, and solid wealth. Blessed be the sun-spots ! 


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** Let Araby boast of her soft spicy gale. 
And Persia her breeze from the rose-scented vale ; 
Let orange trees scatter in wildness their balm, 
Where sweet summer islands lie fragrant and calm ; 
Give me the cold blast of my country again, 
Careering o*er snow-covered mountain and plain, 
And coming, though scentless, yet pure, to my breast, 
With vigor and health from the cloudless Nor*- West." 

Dr. J, K. Mitchell. 

" All nature feels the renovating force 
Of winter ; only to the thoughtless eye 
Is ruin seen.** 



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THE region bordering Detroit River and Lake Eriie 
in its winter climate, exhibits signally the melio- 
rating influence of large bodies of water. It experiences 
an exemption from the greater degree of cold which pre- 
vails in the same latitudes both east and west. 

Some very cold days occur, when the mercury falls 
below zero of Fahrenheit. The lowest degree registered 
at Detroit during the last fifty years, from 1835 to 1886, 
is — 20°. During the same cold storms in Central New 
York and New England it fell to — 35*^ and — ^40^, and 
even lower on the Western plains. 

A great depth of snow is also rare, and it is not un- 
common to have none sufficient for sleighing during a 
whole winter, or, at most, for a few days only. At the 
same time large bodies of snow lie upon the ground in 
the central portions of this State, and through Canada 
and the Eastern States. 

Ordinarily winter cold fairly sets in about the end of 
November, but frequently delays until December and 
even January. December often presents a succession of 
clear days, with a temperature below freezing at night, 
and rising a little above it during the day ; a state of the 
atmosphere very exhilarating, and which tempts to out- 
of-door life and walking. 

January is generally the coldest month, and the most 
snowy. Frequently snow falls in sufficient quantity or 



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persistence for good sleighing only in the latter part of 
the month, continuing into the following month. By the 
middle of February it is usual for the snow to disappear 
for the remainder of the season. 

Detroit River ordinarily is bridged with ice once or 
twice during the winter, for a few days at a time. And 
there have been seasons when teams have crossed on the 
ice for weeks together. 

On the other hand, winters are not infrequent when the 
channel of the river has continued constantly open and 
free from ice, except occasional floating masses from the 
lakes above. 

Generally this river is open to navigation a full month 
before the ice leaves the harbor of Buffalo, or there is 
passage for vessels through the Straits of Mackinaw. 
Whenever any of the harbors of Lake Erie are open 
it is a certainty that vessels may enter the harbor of 

The first approach of winter in this climate is almost 
always dismal. The frosty nights which precede would 
be pleasant enough if they did not always come a little 
too soon for our preparation, and when they are followed 
by cloudless days, as is generally the case, the cold is in- 

But the first snow is altogether another thing. No- 
vember snows seldom lie long on the ground ; the sun is 
still too powerful. They last, it may be, through one or 
two cold days, and then thaw into slush and mud. The 
atmosphere is then chilly and uncomfortable ; the earth 
is wet and dirty. No word is too harsh to express the 
utter discomfort of such days, which have all the gloom 
of winter without any of its delights. 


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In our variable climate but little dependence can be 
placed on any long continuance of cold or heat. From 
the fall of the leaf we know that summer has ended. 
The hard frosts advertise the presence of winter, but after 
his first frowns he often treats us to a long holiday of 
genial smiles. Many days occur, even in midwinter, 
when the air is mild and balmy as in summer ; when the 
frost has altogether left us ; when even the mud is dried 
up, and the river, free from its icy chains, flows majesti- 
cally; days as bland and invigorating to soul and 
body as it is possible to conceive. Such "spells" are 
very common indeed in this locality, where there is 
tisually so little snow, or long continuance of extreme 

Whittier has well described this dream of summer in 
winter : 

** Bland as the morning breath of June 

The south-west breezes play ; 
And, through its haze, the winter noon 

Seems warm as summer's day. 
The snow-plumed Angel of the North 

Has droppM his icy spear ; 
Again the mossy earth looks forth, 

Again the streams gush clear." 

The winter of 1837-38 was of this *' open '* and genial 
character. Navigation closed on the 8th of December, 
but so mild was the following January that steamers 
again made trips to Cleveland, and boats patrolled the 
river during the whole month. 

The first two months of 1842 were still more remarka- 
ble for mildness, and this character of the winter pre- 
vailed, not only in the neighborhood of Detroit, but 


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throughout the northerly part of the United States. It 
was accompanied with heavy and frequent rains, and con- 
sequent extensive freshets. The Buffalo Journal of Jan. 
30, says, ** For many days past the air has resembled 
that of April. Yesterday was as bright and balmy as 
those calm days of spring when all things animate are re- 
joicing ; to-day a sad change to drizzling showers. Navi- 
gation of our lake continues perfectly open." 

The papers of Rochester (N. Y.) tell of " grass-hoppers 
an inch long jumping about the gardens.** 

Here the mean temperature of the season was about 4° 
above the normal, of 27.3^. The maximum, of both Jan- 
uary and February was 56°, the minimum +4° in 
February. The precipitation was a little below the 
winter average of 6 inches. 

The winter of 1844-45 was of similar mildness. The 
lake harbors below were open, and steamers plied be- 
tween Buffalo and Detroit every month. In this neigh- 
borhood the ground was bare of snow the entire winter, 
and the ice men were able to harvest only three inches 
thickness of ice from the river. The mean temperature 
of the season was 3*^ above the normal, and the precipi- 
tation 3 inches below. In the Eastern States, while the 
season was uncommonly mild, severe snow-storms oc- 
curred in February. 

The winters of 1847-48 and of 1852-53, were also un- 
commonly mild and without snow. During the first, 
steamers made trips to Buffalo, and the Hudson River 
was open in February, 1853. 

The winter of 1857-58 until February was yet more 
mild and open. From all parts of the country the report 
is " no snow, and an atmosphere like spring.** On the 


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last day of January violets were in bloom in my garden. 

The winter of 1879-80 opened without frost and with 
heavy rains at night. On the morning of December 15, 
a light snow left its ermine mantle on tree and shrub, — 
a glorious spectacle. Snow continued to fall to six inches 
depth, and the thermometer fell to 12° and afterwards 
to — 2^, which was the coldest of the winter. By 
New Year s day all snow had disappeared in the prevail- 
ing warm. Heavy rains fell early in the month, swell- 
ing the streams and demoralizing the roads. By the 
middle of the month the ground was bare, and so con- 
tinued throughout that month and February. 

The maximum temperature in January was 57°, min- 
imum 19° ; maximum temperature in February was 60°, 
minimum, 11 °. The mean of the whole season was 30*^, 
or 6° above the average; the precipitation 8.9 inches, or 
3 inches above the average. 

The winters so far alluded to would be considered in 
general language as **mild and open.*' Before proceed- 
ing to notice those of an opposite character, it may be 
well to see whether we can arrange the whole series into 
two classes, with reference to the controlling elements. 

Many winters are so changeable, yet so near the aver- 
age in temperature, that it is not easy to determine to 
which class they belong. But by arranging on one side 
those whose mean is considerably above, and on the 
other those which are below the winter mean of the 
series, with the aid of general memoranda, a tabular 
division may be made as below. In this table those 
years whose means vary but little from each other, and 
which are in immediate succession, are grouped together. 


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1837 to 1842 . 











1880-82 . . . . 


of years 

Range .... 5. 5 
Mean 29. 2 







27 5 






















Range 2. 

Mean 24.4 


No. of 







Mean of the whole series = 27.3° 

Here we find that of the 50 winters since 1835, 27 may 
be classed as similar in character to those we above de- 
scribed as " warm,*' averaging about 2° of temperature 
above the normal ; and that 23 may be classed as " cold," 
their temperature averaging 3° below the normal. The 


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latter are universally followed by raw, cold and backward 
springs. In fact the succeeding March is often more in 
sympathy with winter than spring, and would find place 
with it if nature had the making of our calendar. 

Let us now notice some of the winters which contrast 
with those we have described. The table shows how fre- 
quently (but not invariably), a mild and open winter is 
followed by a cold and stormy or snowy one. 

Thus the winter which succeeded the mild one of 1842 
was in striking contrast. Snow fell on Nov. 18, 1842, 
followed by a steady cold and successive snowfalls, which 
continued until April. Detroit River remained frozen 
nearly the whole winter, and teams crossed on the ice 
throughout March. With one week's exception, there 
was good sleighing in and about Detroit until the 8th of 
April. Lake Erie was so frozen over that teams are said 
to have crossed, throughout the winter, from various 
places on the south shore into Canada. It presented to 
view a great icy plain, from which no water could be 
seen. Large quantities of ice floated down the lake early 
in the season, became wedged in and froze, in many 
places probably in a solid mass to the bottom. Many 
thought this shallow lake was a mass of ice throughout. 
A Buffalo journal said that ** on going out a mile from 
shore and cutting through the ice in three several places 
the result was, 28, 29 J^ and 31 inches of as solid and 
transparent an article as ever graced an ice-house." 

The following March was practically a winter month 
and can be appropriately described only in this connec- 
tion. It was noticeable for its unprecedented snowfalls 
throughout the United States. 

On the i6th, snow fell in New York city to a depth of 


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1 8 inches. At Washington, D. C, railway trains were 
delayed a whole day by snow a foot in depth. Snow 
fell throughout South Carolina, and reached even New 

Through New York and the Eastern States the heavy 
foot of this wintry spring fell with tremendous weight. 
The storms seemed to rival those of Alpine regions. On 
the 1 8th of March the train of cars which left Albany for 
Boston, propelled by five locomotives, proceeded about 
three miles, when it encountered such a depth of com- 
pact snow that it was compelled to return. 

On the next day the train which left Boston for Albany 
proceeded six miles, when it became fast in the snow, 
and the passengers left it and returned. In many places 
the snow drifted 15 feet. In one place, east of Utica, it 
is said to have been 40 feet deep. 

A correspondent of the New York American^ writing 
from Whitesboro, N. Y., under date of March 19, gives 
a graphic description of the state of things in that region : 
** On all sides of us, as far as the eye can penetrate, there 
is a desolating expanse of virgin snow. There is not a 
mountain around us that does not exhibit its towering 
masses of snow, shining like precious stones in the morn- 
ing sun, and moulded into all the. fantastic shapes that 
the wildest fancy can invent. The valley is full. Every 
road is embargoed. The Seneca turnpike, leading west 
from Utica, was open yesterday only a mile-- The north- 
ern road, leading up over the hills through Trenton, is as 
unfurrowed by a track as the broad meadows on each 
side of it. In truth, the entire land from Albany to Buf- 
falo is an ocean of snow. The railroads have lost tbeir 
occupation ! ** 

On the prairies west of Chicago trains were blocked 


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Up by the snow many miles from the settlements, where 
they remained for several days. No help could reach 
them from any direction. The passengers subsisted on 
oysters and other stores found in the cars, and burned up 
seats and other portions of the cars for fuel. 

The poets and story-tellers of Europe delight to give 
us exaggerated descriptions of winter in his fierce aspects ; 
but such an exhibition of ** the storms of wintry time,*' 
it is probable, never occur in the same zone in any other 
part of the world, except upon the high mountain tops of 
Alpine regions. 

So protracted a winter could not be otherwise than 
fatally severe to cattle. In the inland parts of Michigan, 
snow lay for several months three or four feet deep on a 
level. Even in the woods about Detroit it was a foot in 
depth. It is very unusual for cattle to be deprived of 
grazing for so long a period. In the consequent failure 
of fodder many farmers cut down trees, upon which 
their " critters *' browsed, and managed thus to support 
a meagre life. They perished by hundreds in all parts of 
the State. The same was the case in Northern Ohio. 
Many were killed " to save them.** 

Yet it was reported that at Sault Ste. Marie and other 
Northern places, the winter proved unusually mild and 
open. The Ohio River was navigable from the middle 
of February. 

Cold and protracted as was this winter season, its mean 
was but little below the normal, and the lowest minimum 
was — 6° in February. 

Following the unusually open and mild winter of 
1848, that of 1848-49 set in about Christmas, with 
snow, which continued throughout the season. In the in- 
terior of the State and in Ohio fruit trees were killed by 


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the severity or long continuance of the cold ; though the 
lowest of the thermometer was but — 14® at Detroit, and 
the snow-fall was only two-thirds the winter average. 

The winter of 1855-56 was a very severe one. The 
lowest degree noted here was — 14*^ ; but elsewhere in 
the State it fell to — 24 ° . The usual January thaw did not 
occur, nor was there a day during that month when the 
snow melted, even in the sun. Cold continued through- 
out February, with good sleighing, and only a slight 
thaw. I find noted that I crossed on the ice to Canada, 
wuth hundreds of others, railway passengers, on the 
15th of March; the ferry-boats being unable to force a 

Reports from all parts of the country indicated this 
winter as one of general and unusual severity. Snow 
fell throughout the Southern States, and ice formed at 

January, 1857, was remarkable for its extremity of cold 
all over the Union. On the 24th the thermometer indi- 
cated — ^40° in northern New England. In central New 
York — 30°. In portions of Michigan — 20 °. At Detroit 
— 18°. At New Orleans it stood at 28° for three days. 
A snow-storm occurred at the City of Mexico, lasting 
several hours, — a most unusual phenomenon. Early in 
February thaw set in, with heavy rains and melting of 
the snow, which flooded the country. This was followed 
by a second edition of winter, lasting, with frost and 
snow, almost into the summer months. 

The winter of 1872-73, succeeding the cold and stormy 
one of '72, proved even more severe, though it followed 
immediately upon a genial summer and dry autumn. It set 
in during November, with considerable snow. During 
December there was no complete thaw. A fall of snow, 


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of SIX inches, on the 20th, was followed by extreme cold. 
On the 2 1st, the thermometer indicated — 14°, andon22d, 
— 18°. This cold spell was general over the United 
States. At the same period reports from Europe told 
of drenching rains, causing immense floods in Italy, Ger- 
many, France and England. 

With us the abundance of snow made the holidays 
lively, but did not assist to supply the water famine. 
Cisterns were so low that many residents in the city 
suburbs were compelled to resort to the river. The 
drought was general over the State. The month closed 
with a foot of snow in the streets of Detroit. 

Storms continued through January, with deeply drifted 
snows all over the Western States, broken only by a 
single day's thaw (i6th), when rain fell in floods. 

On January 23, 1873, set in one of the most violent 
snow-storms ever experienced here. It continued all day, 
with an easterly wind driving at the rate, apparently, of 
40 or 50 miles an hour, with a blinding snow, which 
fell a foot in depth. Snow continued to fall at intervals 
the next day, but with less violent easterly wind. In- 
tense cold followed. On 28th, my thermometer (Spring- 
wells) indicated — 20°, but the Signal Service Office in 
Detroit, recorded only — 12°. 

February continued cold, with a few days of thaw, be- 
ginning on the 1 8th, which removed most of the snow 
from open grounds. On 23d, the mercury was again 
below zero, from St. Louis to Philadelphia. 

The remainder of the month was more moderate, but 
March came in like a lion, with cold 5° below zero. 
Notwithstanding the continued and abundant snow, the 
winter precipitation, as determined by the Signal Service 
Station, was only four inches, or two-thirds the normal 


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amount. The temperature mean was 25 °, or two degrees 
below normal. 

The winter of 1874-75 was extremely cold, having the 
lowest mean of any in my series, 19°. And very dry, — 
the precipitation being 3.3 inches only, or half the normal 

February was especially noted for its continued suc- 
cession of cold waves, which were felt all over the United 
States, the Pacific Isles and Europe. The temperature 
iell to — 20° at Detroit, and was below zero for fourteen 

The winter of 1876-77 was of that peculiar character 
which refuses definite classification. 

December was steadily cold, -without thaw, except of 
a single day's duration, and sleighing was in perfection 
all the month. By the 20th the ice-houses were filled 
with transparent blocks, a foot and more in thickness. 

The grounding of ice at the islands and shallows in the 
lower part of the river effected so complete a blockade, 
as to set back the water, for many days, to an unusual 
height at the wharves in the city, and so filled the whole 
channel with heavy ice as greatly to impede the passage 
of the ferry-boats. The railway-car ferries were on one 
occasion, for a whole day, embargoed in the middle of 
the stream, unable to advance or recede, the cars filled 
with anxious passengers. The lowest degree reached by 
the thermometer was — 9 ° , but the mean of the month 
was 18.5°, or II degrees below thenormal. The amount 
of snow-fall, converted to its liquid equivalent, was re- 
ported as 1.9 inches, which is above the average. 

January was also of steady cold, the sleighing constant 
and good, without thaw until the 29th. The river re- 
mained frozen over, and the ice crops were never so abun- 


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dant and fine. The lowest temperature was — 5 ° , and the 
mean of the month, 20°. Precipitation, one and a quar- 
ter inches. Prevailing wind, south-west. 

The thaw which began on the 29th January proved 
to be the precursor of a complete and most extraor- 
dinary change in the programme of the clerk of the 
weather. February was as sunny and warm as the two 
preceding months had been overcast and cold. A de- 
lightful temperature prevailed throughout the month, 
thawing by day and freezing by night, the snow grad- 
ually disappearing. Frost also left the earth, and the 
roads became uniformly hard and dry, — no mud, no ruts, no 
rain, no snow, — and nearly every day balmy and cloud- 
less. The highest barometer, with least range, the high- 
est temperature and highest means of both, for the last 
five years. The precipitation was almost too small to be 
registered (0.04 inches), and the wind, which continued 
to prevail from the south-west, had little velocity. 

All this geniality was reversed by the spring which fol- 
owed ; an account of which is reserved for my notes on 
that season. 

The long continued, severe cold of the winter of 1884- 
8'5 is so fresh in the memory of all who undertake to read 
these minutes that I will make a brief allusion to it only. 
That winter is specially noticeable for the rapid succes- 
sion of cold waves from the North-west, which involved 
in their widespread sweep the greater part of the United 
States, and were very remarkable. 

But though the sensible cold was so severely felt, the 
actual mean temperature was but 2° below the normal. 
A low degree of temperature ran through the three 
months, the minima being respectively — 6°, — 17° and 


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— 12°. The precipitation was normal, and the weather 
very changeable. 

The advent of 1864 will be remembered for a very sud- 
den and violent reversal of the temperature. Through- 
out December the weather had been mild, with but little 
frost, and the river contained only occasional masses of 
floating ice. The last day of the year was attended with 
rain, the wind being from the east and north-east. Late 
at night the wind shifted to west, bringing extreme cold. 
At 7 A.M. New Year's morning, the mercury indicated 
— 5*^. It continued to fall during the day, and at night 
stood at — 20°, passing through sixty degrees in twenty- 
four hours ; from the summer of the temperate zone to 
an arctic winter ! 

With us but little snow fell during this violent change. 
The day was clear, with a strong west wind, which at 
Buffalo raised the water of the lake twenty feet. 

Westward the cold was preceded by a heavy snow-fall. 
The railways terminating at Chicago were reported 
stopped by snow. The mercury fell to — 28^ ° . At St. 
Louis no trains arrived for two days, and the Mississippi 
was closed by ice. The storm extended as far north as 
Green Bay, and as far south as Kentucky. At Louisville 
the thermometer fell from 49° to — 1°, and on New- 
Year's day at 9 A.M. it had fallen as low as — 19>^*^ ; a 
range of 68 >^ ° ! 

Much snow also fell in Maryland and along the upper 
Potomac, with a temperature much below zero, greatly 
to the distress of our army. 

With the exception of this unprecedentedly cold storm, 
the season was in no respect abnormal. But my general 


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notes of the remainder may be acceptable, as serving to 
exhibit the ordinary character of winter in this locality. 

Jan, 5. Snow on the ground this morning about four 
inches, and being underlaid by a coat of ice, the sleighing 
is good. Wind continues westerly. 

Jan, 6. Since ist inst. the river has been frozen over, 
and is crossed daily on foot. The ferries continue their 
trips, but not with the usual regularity. 

Jan. 12. Cold continues. Thermometer since ist inst. 
has ranged between 10® and 20°, the sun shining out 
frequently. On the morning of the 9th it was at o. 
Snow has disappeared from the streets and roads, by in- 
sensible evaporation, there having been no thaw. A 
little is still left in the woods. The river is being crossed 
above the ferry channels by sleighs, and an enterprising 
individual has avoided the license law by erecting a 
shanty on the ice, at the boundary line of the two na- 
tions, where ** tangle-leg ** and " complete disability " 
(the fashionable names for bad liquors) are dispensed 
to chilled passengers. Too many find themselves, liter- 
ally and metaphorically — to use a slang phrase — "half- 

The Mississippi and Ohio are reported frozen over, and 
crossed by teams as far down as Cairo. 

Jan, 18. A two days* thaw leaves the ground bare, but 
has not disturbed the thick-ribbed ice in the river. Since 
the 1st there h?is been more or less sleighing. 

Jan, 25. A thaw has been in progress for three days 
past. This morning the broad expanse of the river is 
free from ice ; even the floating cakes have disappeared. 
The sun rises clear and beautiful upon the plying ferry- 
boats, which are crossing in their usual tracks, as if no 
ice-bound surface had so lately barred their progress. 


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Jan, 27. A most lovely day, with clear, warm sun. 
Thermometer at midday 60°. 

Feb. 16. Since last entry the weather has been mild, 
thawing during the day and scarcely freezing at night. 
The earth is bare, and frost is out in many places. Yes- 
terday was bright and balmy as April. To-day Boreas 
descends upon us with bluster, and whirls the dust in 

Feb, 17. A cold change, with slight flurry of snow. 
Thermometer at 7 A.M. — 3°. 

Feb, 18. Thermometer at 7 A.M. — o; at noon 10°. 
Roads are dry and good. 

Feb, 29. Warmer. Thermometer at 7 A.M. 32°. 

Feb, 29. The mild weather continues. Seldom frost, 
even at night. Thermometer ranges from 32° to 40°; 
days cloudy. 

With the exception of the first ten days of January 
there has been no sleighing in this neighborhood, but in 
the interior and northerly parts of the peninsula the snow 
has been sufficient for sleighing during a considerable 
part of January and February. 

The minimum temperature of February was — 3°. 
The winds during January and February, west and west 
by south and by north, only three easterly, and for a 
short time. 

It should be remembered that the. Signal Service was 
not established at Detroit until 1871. Such phenomena 
as I have noted are now being recor4ed as well as traced 
to their sources, with a scientific accuracy and minuteness 
that will not be looked for in these general notes. 

Snowy winters are of great advantage to our farmers 
and to those who make wood-craft an employment. 
** Timber '* of all kinds is then best cut ; the frozen, snow- 


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covered earth facilitating the removal by sleds, from situ- 
ations that are nearly or quite impracticable at other 

Wood has become of a value for fuel undreamed of a 
few years ago, and is in so great demand that a large and 
profitable business is done, mostly by small farmers, who 
bring it to the city market from many miles, and from 
lands where a short period ago it was an incumbrance, to 
be got rid of by the usual wasteful process of wind-falling 
and burning. Fire-wood and timber are also cut and 
hauled to the river banks, from long distances, for re- 
moval by boats in the summer to the markets of Detroit, 
Chicago and other cities. 

Within a few years an immense traffic has sprung up in 
staves, hoops, and other barrel material, in the heavily 
wooded districts along the river St. Clair, and elsewhere 
in our State and Canada. It employs many vessels, some 
of which are loaded from our wharves direct to Europe, 
through the Welland Canal and the St. Lawrence. The 
softer woods of Michigan forests have acquired a value 
for many purposes which they did not possess a few 
years ago. A winter of good sledding is of inestimable 
advantage, in the transsport of these forest products to 
the place of transshipment or manufacture. Though in 
consequence of the uncertain character of our winters, 
and of the increased distances of land transport, logs and 
timber are now, in many places, drawn out by tram- 
roads, built for the purpose. 

Among these occupations I need make only a bare allu- 
sion to the great pine lumber interest, and to the import- 
ance to it of winters of snow and ice. 

A trip to the pine woods in winter will well repay any 
one who not only loves the forests at all seasons, even in 


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the depth and gloom of the cold season, but who would 
witness an exhilarating spectacle of the triumphs of 
labor, and resolve the question. Whence come those im- 
mense piles of boards and lumber that are daily used by 
builders, in the infinite variety of structures, throughout 
our land. 

Such an excursion I made into Sanilac County, during 
some pleasant days in February. A half-day's journey 
from Port Huron brought us into the heart of the pine 
district. Here the sleighing was superb, and the weather 
all that could be wished for wood travel. 

A light snow had fallen the night before, and the earth 
was covered to the depth of a foot with a mantle of un- 
sullied whiteness; in its crystalline purity a matchless 
cr'eation ! We passed through much pine, hemlock and 
beech forest. The new gift of the night rested on their 
limbs and foliage, so that they drooped under the load. 
What superb pictures they formed ! the crests of pure 
white crowning, while they did not wholly conceal, the 
green foliage, and adding a pendent grace to their nat- 
ural beauty. How admirably defined each bending 
bough, by contrast of its gleaming fringe with the dark 
shade beneath! 

" Every pine and fir and hemlock 
Wore ermine too dear for an earl, 
And the poorest twig on the elm tree 
Was ridged inch deep with pearl." 


And if each individual tree was a beautiful object, what 
a magnificent spectacle their combination, as we entered 
a dense forest of these evergreens ! The loftiest pines 
reared their heads one hundred and fifty feet above our 
own, crowned with their glittering diadems. Some of 


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the hemlocks were but little less lofty ; while the smaller 
trees and the underbrush formed a dense thicket, through 
which the eye could penetrate but a short distance. 
Much of the undergrowth consists of small beech trees, 
which retain their leaves through the winter, changed to 
delicate shades of brown. 

All beneath — the soil and the fallen timber — reposed 
under the deep, fleecy coverlet. For three days no wind 
shook down the snow wreaths that the lightest touch of 
the limbs in passing sufficed to bring in showers upon our 

An orchard of fruit trees in full bloom may bear some 
comparison with these snow-blossomed evergreens, but 
it lacks the beauty of outline, the depth of foliage, and 
the majesty of proportion. If anything could add to the 
grandeur of a pine forest it is this crowning grace of 
winter. The sunny South, with its palms and its tropic 
scenes, has its own delights, but it cannot offer us such a 
gift as this. 

To the man of robust health, whose blood circulates 
rapidly through his full veins, winter is a welcome season. 
Only the shivering invalid fails to appreciate its peculiar 

There is a keen sense of enjoyment which is known 
only in winter. The sharp frosty air imparts to the 
whole frame new life and vigor, and these react upon the 
soul. There is a wild delight in breasting the storm, as 
it howls along our pathway, the snow-flakes falling fast 
and thick, covering every familiar object, and imparting 
a new aspect to the face of nature. How lovely this 
spotless mantle in its purity, fit to be the gift from 
Heaven which it is ! It is joy even to wade through its 
laborious depths. 


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See how the young people hail its coming ! Hear their 
shouts of ecstasy, as they plunge into the drifts, or roll 
huge balls to build snow fortresses or mock statues, or 
hasten with their sleds to the hill-side ! How their cheeks 
glow with the healthful excitement and the more impul- 
sive life in the blood ! 

Now hurry out the sleighs! The jingling bells — 
" merry bells," — the smooth, rapid motion, the absence 
of rumbling wheels and noise and jolts, and the fresh, 
bracing atmosphere, combine to create an enjoyment, a 
rapture which is felt only where King Winter reigns ac- 
knowledged. Farewell to mud, to dust and filth! 
Welcome the new creation, the soft robe, covering all 
earth's impurities; substituting for the faded garniture of 
summer an all-investing robe of celestial purity. 

Well may the farmer rejoice, who looks only with prac- 
tical eye upon the seasons as they change ; for this snow- 
cover is the best manure for his fields, costing neither 
money nor cartage, and it is a shield of protection to all 
tender-rooted crops against the heaving frosts. 

The trees, lately stripped of their dresses, have put on 
one which helps to relieve their barrenness. But are the 
naked trees shorn of their beauty, because divested of 
their summer clothing? On the contrary, at no time is 
their beauty of form so apparent. Compare the nude 
Apollo with the dressed statue of a modern hero ! Every 
leafless tree has a character of its own, which is brought 
to view more distinctly when each limb and minute twig 
are printed upon the sky. It is a winter study full of in- 
struction, and worthy an artist's eye, to note how differ- 
ent and how distinguishable are the various species, in 
those distinctive features of size, habit of growth, and ar- 
rangement of branches^ which are more or less concealed 


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by the summer drapery. There is a charm even in the 
disclosures which the fall of the leaf has made, of the 
deserted birds* nests, some pensile from the slender twig, 
some securely fixed in a crotch of the limbs. No land- 
scape painter can be perfect in his art who has not 
studied — as how few do ! — the trees in their winter anat- 
omy, noted their blue shadows upon the snow, and the 
many other effects appreciated by the true student of 
nature, in this her sternest but most entrancing aspect. 

Now stir the fire, and draw the shutters close, and 
wheel the sofa round. Let the wind whistle by or 
breathe its loud sough ; let it bring King Frost and all the 
furies in its train. At this ample fireside we are safe 
from its chill blasts. Here all is warmth and light, and 
thoughtful life, in cheerful contrast to the scenes of cold, 
darkness and desolation without. 

Gather around the parlor table, strewn with books, and 
littered with articles that instruct or amuse the varied 
members of the family. The long, long, delightful, so- 
cial evening is before us ; such an evening as only the 
season of short days and long nights can bring ; such as 
is known only where Boreas reigns supreme. Who cares 
how fiercely the storm rages ! Who cares what heaps of 
snow are piled up by the sweeping blasts ! His fiercest 
howls only add a new sense of security and enjoyment to 
the winter fireside. 

Little tired feet, that have been active all the after- 
noon, playing in the snow bank, or on the slippery ice, 
now rest in the genial warmth of the hearth, and after a 
brief hour of reading, or song, or game, drag themselves 
off to the welcome bed, leaving the older heads to their 
conversation, their papers or their books. Nowhere is 
the family tie so strong as by the winter fireside. No- 


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where are the kindly feelings so aroused, not only for 
the happy group around, but for those destitute ones, 
who art this inclement period experience only its dis- 
comforts and its bitterness. 

Be active, then, to relieve the distresses of the poor, 
ye who have such store of this world's comforts, as to 
convert its most drear and perishing season into one of 
amplest delight. Let the poor brutes, too, that are 
dependent on thee, receive a double share of care and 
solicitude, and let thy thanksgiving for bounties be- 
stowed, and thy Christmas joy for Heaven's mercies to 
thee and thine, be expressed by renewed efforts to dis- 
pense the blessings thou hast so bountifully received. 


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" So forth issewM the seasons of the yeare : 
First, lusty Spring, all dight in leaves of flowres, 
That freshly budded and new bloomes did beare, 
In which a thousand birds had built their bowres, 
That severally sung to call forth paramours ; 
And in his hand a iaelin he did beare, 
And on his head (as fit for warlike stoures) 
A gilt engraven morion he did weare ; 
That as some did him love, so others did him feare." 



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IN this uncertain climate the hopes of the eager 
watcher for spring are doomed to many and many a 

March is not continually given to bluster. Sometimes 
a succession of mild, sunny days, clinging to the very 
skirts of winter, will swell the earliest buds almost to 
bursting, and awaken the belief that the vernal season 
of the poets has really come. We join in his rapturous 

** Soon o'er our heads blithe April airs shall sing, 
A thousand wild flowers round them shall unfold, 
The green buds glisten in the dews of Spring, 
And all be vernal rapture as of old." 

Then winter again takes up the sceptre, which he had 
but laid aside for an idle nap, and rules with increased 
severity, as if to atone for the neglect, and cheat the poet 
of his prophecy. He dallies with March, and coquets 
with April, allowing to each intervals of favor, but un- 
willing to yield to the bland usurper his ill ruled and 
already broken kingdom. At last the milder power pre- 
vails; the enfeebled frost-monarch contenting himself 
with only occasional raids into his abandoned ter- 

The struggle during March is often mixed and bois- 



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terous enough. Now it blows a tempest, now breathes a 
gentle calm ; now freezes at zero, now thaws rapidly at 
summer heat. In the morning, snow; at night, a thunder- 
storm. Now wet, now dry ; now sunshine, now cloud. 
Days that call a seraph down, but speed him back on 
the morrow to his more congenial heaven. Suppliant 
month, that invites the birds, and greets their, opening 
music with piping winds and crackling frosts ; that with 
soft breath dissolves the snows into rippling streams, 
but floods the land with water, embargoes it with mud, 
stiffens it with ice. Month full of promise, full of 
horror ! All welcome thy coming, all rejoice at thy 

Yet how cheering to soul and body the first spring-like 
days, — and we always have some such in March, at 
farthest in April, — when the sun shines blandly ; blus- 
tering Boreas has retired, exhausted by his late potent 
efforts ; the soil reeks' with the dissolving snows ; the 
ditches are full of clear, running water, and little stream- 
lets ramify over the land ; fish run up from the river into 
the fields by these new channels; the birds, returning 
to their old haunts, by their first joyous notes bring back 
the memory of past sunny days; flocks of water-fowl 
wend their way up the river ; pigeons fly in large num- 
bers over our heads. If an occasional snow-bank hedges 
the fields, it is fast dissolving in the warm sun. In the 
river, masses of ice, which so lately formed a solid bridge, 
are broken into fragments, that rapidly disappear, soften- 
ing, whitening, crumbling, and sinking or floating out of 

Attracted by the genial warmth everybody is out of 
doors ; the fires are allowed to expire on the neglected 
hearth, and open doors permit the wind once more to 


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circulate through the house. We tread again the long 
unused walks in the garden and shrubberies, in field and 
lawn, examine our cherished plants, to see whether the 
cold hand of winter has dealt kindly with them ; while 
visions of bursting buds, of early flowers, and of the uni- 
versal life and bounty of nature, come over our spirits, 
comforting as the visits of white-winged angels, and we 
live whole seasons in the swift memories and hopes of a 
single hour. 

A succession of such sunny days in March, accom- 
panied by powerful rains, and coming before the snows 
have lost much of their winter depth, is certain to create 
disastrous floods. I quote from my journal : 

March. 20, 1865. We have accounts of floods all over 
the Northern and Middle States. A larger quantity than 
usual of snow had been left by the retreating winter, and 
snow-storms were succeeded by heavy rains. The conse- 
quences have been tremendous. Streams have risen sud- 
denly to a height not known for many years, covering 
miles of country, deluging cities as well as. fields, carry- 
ing off houses, sheep, cattle and fences, sweeping away 
bridges, even of stone and iron, tearing away the banks 
of canals for miles, interrupting railway trains, the. tele- 
graph, and the roads, so that whole days have passed 
without intelligence between one part of the country 
and another that had been in daily, if not hourly com- 
munication. Millions of dollars in property are thus lost 
in a day. 

Happily our neighborhood is but little subject to dis- 
asters from this cause, as it is seldom visited by a depth 
of snow sufficient to cause a deluge on this sudden 
'* breaking up '* of winter, and has no deep valleys to col- 
lect into vast bodies the accumulated waters. 


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Sometimes, nevertheless, the spring rains are so violent 
and copious as to cause destructive floods in this neigh- 
borhood. Such was the case in April, 1836, which was 
noted for a tremendous freshet, which destroyed roads 
and bridges, doing a large amount of damage, though lit- 
tle in comparison with the devastations occasioned by 
the flood of 1865, through New York and Pennsylvania. 

Ordinarily, in this locality, the advance of spring is 
more slow and prolonged than it is a hundred miles to 
the west and north, where the transition from winter to 
summer takes place very frequently with scarcely an inter- 
val that is worthy the name of spring. Here the season 
is better characterized, though its natural limits are much 
shorter than in Europe. But many instances of such 
rapid transition are on my records. 

The spring of 1841 followed a winter of little severity- 
Lake navigation opened unusually early — in April. March 
was rather mild, but with a mean temperature 3 ° below 
the normal, of 34°. The season proved cold and back- 
ward, retarded possibly by the presence pf large bodies 
of ice floating off the Newfoundland coast, and even as 
far south as latitude 41°. April and May had each a 
mean temperature 4° or 5° below the normal (of 
46° and 58° respectively). 

There was much snow over the country throughout 
April, and ice formed at Washington on 3d May. Fruit 
trees were not in blossom until the 20th of that month,' 
nor had the forests put forth scarcely a green leaf. On 
the 22d May, summer burst upon us in full glory. Fruit 
trees were in bloom, the forests quite green, and an 
almost summer foliage clothed many of the trees and 
shrubbery in the city yards. For several days successively 


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the thermometer rose to 80° and above, during the after- 
noons. The summer following proved warm and dry. 

The spring of 1844 afforded an instance of a very 
early as well as sudden advance of vegetation. The preced- 
ing winter was mild, without snow and with very little ice. 
March was also mild, and April had a mean temperature 
8° above the normal. On the nth of that month hardly 
a green leaf had appeared. Two days later gardens were 
quite green and many fruit trees in blossom. Frosts fol- 
lowed in May, and both spring and summer were very 

The opening of 1845 exhibited in a still stronger de- 
gree the contrasts which are so common between our 
spring seasons, and shows how extreme often is the di- 
versity. The spring followed a winter of uncommon 
openness, which is described in my chapter on Winter. 
On 3d March steamers had commenced regular trips to 
ports on Lake Erie. Frost had left the ground for fully 
a week, and roads were quite dry. On the i ith, forest trees 
showed blossom, and vegetation began to advance. In 
a few days more farming and gardening operations were 
in vigorous progress. A week only of freezing weather 
occurred in March, although the mean temperature was 
below the normal. No untimely frosts subsequently 
marred the prospects of the year, which proved warm 
and dry. 

The spring of 1855 followed a cold and snowy winter, 
protracted into April; On the 20th of that month the 
mercury leaped to 80°, giving a sudden start to vegeta- 
tion, and bringing the elms and maples into blow. No 
such high temperature was experienced in May or June, 
and the summer was cold and wet. 

The spring of 1857 was of a character still more 


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5i6 sPRi/m. 

marked. An extremely cold and stormy winter, pro- 
longed far beyond the ordinary period, chilled the lap of 
May. Until the last week of that month no influence of 
the spring was apparent. The last two days of May 
and first day of June were very warm, my Fahrenheit in- 
dicating 80° and 85®. Vegetation started with wonder- 
ful vigor, so that in three days, from the nakedness of 
winter every shrub and tree burst into leaf and blossom. 
A cool and moist summer succeeded. 

Sudden changes in the opposite extreme are not infre- 
quent in spring. That of 1862 succeeded a very mild 
and equable winter, whose temperature had at no time 
fallen below zero. During the latter half of April, the 
heat had been almost oppressive. On the i8th May, 
with a strong wind from the N. W., the temperature fell 
in two hours from almost summer heat to below 40°. 
Fruit trees had been in bloom for more than a week. 
This cold snap was followed by frosts which did much 
damage. The remainder of the year was pleasant and 

An equally violent change occurred in the spring of 
1874, though following a winter which had been rather 
mild, with abundant snow. March came in decidedly 
lamb-like. Bluebirds, robins and song sparrows were 
around quite numerously as early as the 2d, and the 
month continued dry and of normal femperature to its 
close. The whole of April was dry, cold and blustering, 
with a mean temperature nine degrees below normal. 
Dry and cool weather accompanied sharp easterly winds 
until May 7. Then a sudden change occurred. A 
prevailing cold, which made overcoats desirable out of 
doors, and fires within, resolved itself into summer heat. 
On the 8th the mercury rose from a maximum of fifty- 


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eight degrees and a minimum below freezing, of the 
previous day, to eighty degrees, which it maintained 
from noon till 5 P.M. On the 9th it rose to eighty-five 
degrees. On the loth, to eighty-nine degrees. We 
experienced a heated term of six days* duration. Until 
the 8th of May no green thing was visible, except grass. 
During the day following many shrubs came into leaf. 
By the loth, a general tint of green pervaded garden and 
forest. On the 12th I gathered a brilliant bouquet from 
my peach, apple, pear, cherry and plum trees. On the 
15th came a welcome rain, with cooler temperature, fol- 
lowed by light frosts. The mean of the month was 
fifty-nine degrees, thirteen degrees above the normal! 
The succeeding summer was not an unusual one, either 
as to temperature or rainfall. 

Other vicissitudes of spring-time deserve mention. 
Snow-storms late in April are not infrequent. 

In 1854 a severe snow-storm set in on Good Friday, 
April 14th, lasting two days, the snow not disappearing 
until after Easter. This storm visited the Atlantic coast 
as far south as Virginia. 

In 1856 snow also fell in April. The month of March 
was exceedingly cold, and the river froze so as to be 
crossed on the ice with teams on the 15th. A hard 
frost occurred on the 30th of May. 

The cold and late spring of 1857 has been already 
alluded to. On the 20th of April a severe storm passed 
over the country, leaving snow three feet deep through 
portions of Western New York. The suspension bridge 
at Rochester was broken down by the weight. 

Reports of travellers, and particularly English rural 
writers, have accustomed us to compare unfavorably the 
character of our spring with that of Europe. Its capri- 


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ciousness is, however, not wholly unknown on the other 
side of the ocean, though it is there a less noted phe- 
nomenon. A writer in the Spectator repudiates the idea 
that the loveliness of the English spring is due to its 
gradual advance and lingering stay ; he even lauds the 
season of 1875 for its very opposite character. He says: 
" It is the custom to talk of the beauty of an English 
May, but for seven years back, at least, May has been a 
work of shedding and of blight, — a shrinking of the 
spirit and wilting of the trees. In almost all English 
springs a large number of the leaves are crinkled by the 
frosts which succeed the first burst into leaf, and happy 
is the neighborhood in which a good proportion of the 
leaves are not blackened as well as shrunken, in conse- 
quence of the indomitable way in which winter keeps 
returning and returning upon us after he has made 
believe to go.** 

This is a species of blight unknown to us, even in our 
coldest or most capricious springs. 

The spring of 1875 must have been imported from 
America. The Spectator says of it : ** In England, almost 
for the first time within what is now a very considerable 
experience, the spring, long delayed, has come abruptly, 
with all the softness of an early summer, and yet with 
all the freshness of true spring. Not a single tree shows 
those powerful signs of pinched or blackened leaves due 
to the frosts which follow on soft weather. It is Hke the 
weather which the returning trade wind brings to the 
tropics when the rainy season is over, only without the 
midday glare, perfect in its freshness and softness." 

" The only drawback ** — the writer continues — " and 
it is so rare a phenomenon in England that it is hardly 
a drawback, is that there has been hardly any graduation 


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visible in the leaf between the bud and the full bright 
green of early summer. A day's rainfall, and then the 
beeches and oaks and elms were all, as by one consent, 
in full dress at once/* 

This well describes our frequent experience, and 
surely it is a consolation, accompanying what we have 
considered a drawback, to know that it has its value and 
a peculiar beauty in foreign eyes. 

One of the earliest indications of returning spring-time 
is the appearance of numerous flocks of wild ducks, 
geese and swans, proceeding to new quarters up the 
chain of rivers and lakes. This takes place in February 
and March, not often in the winter month, unless there 
is promise of a spring of unusual earliness. Sometimes 
the flight is deferred until as late as April, a late spring 
being always the accompaniment. 

In the very cold and backward season of 1843, I 
observed them going northward in the latter week of 
March, and large flocks made their appearance, returning 
upon their tracks, on the third of the following month. 

Robins and bluebirds, the earliest harbingers of 
spring among the songsters, always return to us in 
March, as early as the first week, if the season be mild 
and early, but they often delay their coming until the 
middle or end of the month, if the spring prove late and 
stormy. The yellow birds and the rest of the song tribe 
soon follow, until all the groves are vocal. 

How few know fully what a day in spring is who have 
not been adventurous enough to rise with the dawn, and 
commence the day when the birds begin theirs. Let me 
describe a morning towards the end of May, when — I do 
solemnly aver — I tried the experiment. 


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The hour was three o'clock. Night yet held sway 
over the sleeping earth, and all was silent, with the hush 
that precedes the awakening. The moist air, loaded 
with the odor of innumerable blossoms, breathed around 
me a fragrance and freshness peculiar to the season and 
the hour. Soon the solitary note of a chanticleer — " the 
cock that is the trumpet to the morn *' — broke the 
silence ; another and another answered, until the welkin 
rang with their strains of rivalry. Dawn was but just vis- 
ible, yet every cock for miles around ** with his lofty and 
shrill-sounding throat,** was chanting defiance to the rest 
of his sex, and arousing his feathered dames to the 
duties of the day. A flush of light brightens the eastern 
sky. It is the halo which precedes the chariot of 
Phoebus, attended by Aurora and the dancing hours. 

Notice the clear distinction drawn in the sacred writ- 
ings between those three periods of early day, ** At 
dawn, at cock-crowing, and in the momrng.*' A faint 
blush of light always precedes the awakening of the 
"bird of dawning,** as his full chorus does the period 
when night fairly retreats before the " god of day.** 

To many it would be a new sensation to be up at 
dawn, or 

** At the cock crow, 
When the night is dying slowly 

In the sky, 
And the sea looks calm and holy, 
Waiting for the dawn 
Of the golden sun 

Which draweth nigh. 
When the mists are on the valley, shading 

The river chill, 
And the morning star is fading, fading. 

Over the hill." 

And now, while the mists are yet in the valley and on 

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the river, awakes the nuptial chorus of the birds. And 
what a concert it is! As if each little musician had 
aroused to a fresh sense of his happiness, and was striv- 
ing to outdo all others in the expression of it. The 
whole air is vocal. The strains mingle in a confused 
medley, yet in perfect concord. Not one throat that 
ever poured a note is silent now. One after another 
takes up the strain, ever higher and higher, nearer and 
nearer, until the very heaven resounds, and " Earth rolls 
the raipturous hosanna round.** If you would hear this 
sweet concert delay not until the sun is up, and not 
until the summer. It is the birds* epithalamium. Its 
set time is the dawn in spring. 

Morning has now fairly broke, and human bipeds 
begin to arouse from their beds of slumber, awakened by 
the light. How pure and fresh the atmosphere is still ; 
but the birds have finished their grand concert of thanks- 
giving, and are busy finding breakfast for themselves or 
for their little ones. To how many of us men doea the 
day bring only care and wearying labor, without requital, 
and without the soothing influences of morning. The 
sun is in the heavens ; the discordant sounds of busy life 
float upon the air ; all is tumult upon the earth. Man's 
day has begun. 

After the long deadness of winter, the first flowers 
which greet us in our country rambles have a peculiar 

The most delicate among these, and one of the earliest, 
is the little spring beauty {Claytonia Virgincid)^ very pure 
and lily-like. It grows low, with the violets, and loves 
to hide in the shadows and the fresh grass. Of the 
violets we have eight or ten species, of all shades, from 


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522 SPRING. 

blue to yellow and white. They have an associate in 
the anemone or wind flower, so called from its opening 
in the winds of spring. Our species (nemerosd) is a very 
modest flower, by no means so gorgeous as the several 
European kinds. 

Early in May the "openings,'* or lightly timbered 
lands — which have so great extent on our peninsula, 
though but little in our immediate vicinity — are beauti- 
fully adorned. 

Among the most conspicuous of the May gifts of 
Flora, besides those already named, is the bold Wake- 
robin, both white and pink ; the Litchnidia, purple and 
fragrant ; Bellwort, yellow with spiral petals : Crane's-bill, 
a crowfoot geranium, resembling a dwarf rose ; the yellow 
Buttercup, of world-wide fame; the Lupine, purplish- 
blue ; Lousewort, yellow and red ; Vetch, a small purple- 
white blossom ; the Lady's-slipper, or Cypripedium, yel- 
low and mottled, worthy to fit the foot of Venus ; 
Painted-cup, brilliant scarlet, in its colored bracts ; 
Strawberry and Whortleberry, the latter quite elegant 
with its bell-shaped pink-and-white flower clusters. 

These and many others are ever present and numerous. 
They love to associate in family groups, each kind exclud- 
ing from its favorite locality all others, except a few soli- 
tary foreigners, who seem to be admitted by favor within 
the home circle. They occupy as partiality dictates, one 
tribe the undulating knolls, another the moist hollows. 
Some court the shade, others the fervid sun in the more 
open spaces, and all seem to set at defiance the withering 
fires that annually sweep these glades. 

As a means of useful comparison, I add the periods of 
bloom of some spring flowers of this locality, as reported 


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to me by a botanical friend.* Purple Spring Cress {Car- 
damine purpurea) is in flower by April 12, frequently ; 
Spring Beauty by April 14 ; Marsh Marigold {Caltha 
Pa/ustris),hy April 16; Anemone, Ranunculus and Blood- 
root {Sanguinaria Canadensis)^ by April 18; Liverwort 
(Hepatica acretiloba), as early often as the loth of March. 

Among plants coming into flower from the middle to 
the latter part of April are Blue Colosh {Caulophyllum 
thalictroides) ; several of the Violets ( Viola blanda, cucul- 
latay sagitata, Mulenbergii and pubescens\ Shepherd's purse 
{Capsella bursa-pastoris)\ Ginseng {Ar alia trif olid) \ the 
purple and white Trillium; Yellow Adder's - tongue 
{Erythronium Americanum) \ Dutchman's breeches {Di- 
centra cucularia) and the Sedge {Carex Pennsylvania), 

So brilliant is the autumnal foliage in this climate, as 
quite to eclipse our notice of the leaf tints of spring. 
But these, if less brilliant, are scarcely less varied. Even 
the grass has in its young green blade a velvety softness 
which does not belong to summer. The stems of the 
willows, which are among the earliest of our shrubs to 
feel the enlivening influence of the vernal breath, assume 
a brighter yellow, red and green, according to their spe- 
cies, to which a liveliness is added by the young leaves 
that venture forth so early. The maples show blossoms 
of Indian red. The first leaves of apple-orchards have a 
somewhat brownish tinge of darker green than after- 

These lively tints of the fresh, young leaves contrast 
finely with the evergreens that deepen the green of their 
foliage with the advent of spring. 

How refreshingly green is the grass, the first of the veg- 

* Henry Gillman. 


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524 SPRING. 

etable world to be stimulated into vigor by dissolving 
snows and April showers. How delicious to the sight is 
this soft carpet of green, while the trees are awaiting the 
warmer airs of June to put on " smiling nature's universal 
robe." What luxuriant beauty of the unsodded tropics 
can equal it ! 

A few general facts, drawn from my note-books, will 
serve further to illustrate the progress of our spring 

The northward flight of ducks, geese and swans takes 
place in March, from the first to the end. Robins and 
bluebirds make their first appearance from March i to 
20 ; the thrush, tanager, oriole and song-birds generally, 
seldom before April, and frequently not until May. 

The first signs of vegetation among our common trees 
is seen in the blossoming of elms and maples, from March 
ID to April 20, the average being April 10. The forests 
are green with the young leaf seldom before the latter 
part of April, the range being from April I to May 15, 
and they are seldom in/«//ieaf before June. 

The earliest fruit trees, as peach, cherry and plum, 
come into bloom from middle of April to middle of May, 
— a whole month's range, the average period being May 8. 
Apple and pear are a week later. Our large French 
'pear trees are quite regular in their period, and are 
seldom full-crowned with their snowy blossoms earlier or 
later than May 20. 

The latest spring frosts may occur from April to June. 

I shall close these general observations upon our 
springs by quoting from my journals the weather notes 
of a single season, taken rather at random. Those of 1877 


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tolerably well represent the general average, the mean 
temperature of the three months being only a degree 
below the normal ; that of March nearly 5° below, and of 
April 2^ above. 

The first two winter months which preceded were 
cold and snowy. But February (as we have seen in our 
notices of winters) was unusually mild and clear. 

March 9. After several days of changeable and gusty 
weather, with winds from all quarters of the heavens, a 
storm set in yesterday, with fine snow and sleet, which 
has ended in a fall of 6 inches. Heavier snows are re- 
ported from the north and interior. 

This evening (9th) an aurora was observed, lasting 
from 7.30 to 1 1.30 P.M. It consisted of a single stationary 
arch, without darting luminous beams. 

20th. Since the 9th the ground has been covered with 
snow, and the sleighing good, though but little hard frost. 
This morning the trees were all mantled in thick hoar- 
frost, and presented a glorious appearance in the clear 

The snow soon began to thaw rapidly, and continued 
to soften through the day, although the heavens were 
covered with clouds after 10 A.M. About 6 P.M. the 
clouds deepened, a colder wind coming from the N.E., 
and snow began to fall. At the same time thunder 
was heard, and soon lightning began to play, very sharp 
thunder following at very short intervals. At every re- 
currence of the electric flash, the bell in the City Hall 
tower rang a loud, clear tone. Hail, snow and sleet fell 
in succession, and at 9 P.M. three inches of snow covered 
the ground. 

The cause of this unusual phenomenon is thus ex- 
plained by the Signal Service observer at Detroit (Van 


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526 SPUING. 

Heusen) : " For some ten days preceding the storm there 
had been a succession of mild polar waves, moving down 
from the N.W., and during the same period a warm cur- 
rent, highly charged with atmospheric electricity^ mov- 
ing from the S.W. These two currents, one of cold, 
dense, dry air, and containing a large amount of vapor, 
met somewhere in the neighborhood near the south-west- 
ern portion of Minnesota. The warm air being lighter, 
ascended to the upper atmosphere, carrying with it the 
vast amount of electricity it contained. The cooler air 
clung to the surface of the earth, and this double current 
moved rapidly eastward, continuing on its course to the 
Atlantic seaboard, where its greatest violence was felt." 

During March the prevailing wind was N.E. Highest 
temperature 50°, lowest — 2°. Precipitation 5.43 inches. 
The number of days on which snow or rain fell was 23. 
Frosts on ist and 20th insts. 

April 18/A. Thus far this month has been free from 
snow and severe cold. Frost did not fully leave the 
ground in shaded places before the middle of the month. 
No signs of vegetation, except flowering of the maples, 
until to-day, when, after a week's dry spell, rain has fall- 
en, quite saturating the soil. 22d. — The warm, sunny 
weather which followed has started the buds of early 
plants, and made the grass quite green. Crocuses and a 
few early garden flowers have been a week in bloom. 

28/A. Rain last night. The temperature continues 
very mild ; buds are opening on the trees. Thermometer 
averages about 75 ° at noon. 30/A. — Vegetation is very 
backward, notwithstanding the mean temperature has 
been higher than for the last five years. The highest 
temperature in April, 75 ° ; lowest, 20. Prevailing wind 


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N.E. Rainfall 3.27 inches. Much and thick ice still in 
the upper lake waters. 

May 6th, No rain as yet, but cold, dry winds from 
easterly directions, with frosts every night until 4th. 
nth, — Cold and dry easterly winds continue, without rain 
sufficient to saturate the soil. Yet the forces of nature 
are at work visibly and daily in perfecting the leaf and 
blossom. The maples are coming into young leaf, and 
the horse-chestnuts are quite green. Currant bushes in 
flower ; also cherry trees, but not the shad {Mespilus) nor 
the Judas-tree. 

iZth. Dry weather continued until 1 6th, when a very 
copious rain fell during the night and morning of 17th. 
This was followed by a great change in the temperature, 
which rose from about 70° — the highest heretofore — to 
82° throughout most of the day on the 17th, and on 
the 1 8th to 88 ° , with a burning sun. Vegetation felt this 
extraordinary change most sensibly. The leaves of the 
maples and chestnuts, which three days ago were only 
one-fourth grown, are now of full size. The later trees, 
lindens, oaks and hickories are quite green; cherries, 
peaches and pears are in full blow, and the shad and 
Judas-tree nearly so. 20th, — French pear trees in full blos- 
som. The extreme dryness of the season has given cause 
for forest fires in Northern Michigan and in Wisconsin, 
and some of the Eastern States. In some instances much 
destruction has occurred. 

The rainfall for May has been only 0.90 in. against 5.62 
last year, and a normal precipitation of 3.4 inches. The 
mean temperature is the normal one of 57°, but the range 
has been considerable. Prevailing wind, S.W. 

An aurora of unusual splendor occurred on the 28th, 


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a description of which I condense from the report of the 
Signal Service officer at Detroit : 

*' It consisted of three arches of h'ght, one over the 
other, the last extending to the zenith. Slender, lumi- 
nous beams of yellow and crimson followed, darting up- 
ward from the horizon, and waving like flame. These 
all grew more and more brilliant for an hour, when a 
complete corona of glory was formed. The spectacle was 
then most magnificent. The whole northern half of the 
heavens, to a poiftt lo degrees south of the zenith, was 
one mass of quivering flame, in which all the colors of 
the rainbow seemed blended. The rays of light arranged 
themselves in sinuous bands, like the undulations of a 
flag. At times these united to form a brilliant fringed 
curtain, whose folds were agitated by the wind in an 
immense variety of most graceful curves. After the 
formation of the corona, tremulous waves of light, in 
rapid succession, rolled upward, and travelled along the 
lines of the auroral arches. The southern sky was of 
inky blackness. After more than an hour the arches 
broke into segments, and the aurora disappeared.*' 


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" From brightening fields of ether fair disclosed, 
Child of the sun, refulgent Summer comes, 
In pride of youth, and felt through Nature's depth : 
He comes attended by the sultry Hours, 
And ever fanning Breezes on his way." 



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THE first of our summer months is undoubtedly with 
us one of the most enjoyable of the year. The 
labors of planting and preparing the soil for the long 
awaited vegetation are concluded ; the dangers from 
frosts and blasting winds are over ; we have a full real- 
ization of what the coming season of growth is to afford. 
Our keen sense of the change from the nakedness of 
winter to the greenness and bloom of nature is not yet 
blunted by long fruition. Nor have we yet been parched 
by the summer heats. 

What a month of months is our Northern June ! The 
trees lately so bare, or showing only the delicate tints of 
spring, have now perfected their foliage, and are fresh and 
lustrous as young brides adorned for their husbands. The 
evergreens are illuminating their sombre mourning suits 
with an embroidery of a new and lighter growth, that, 
like half-tints in a widow's weeds, betoken relief from the 
thraldom of sorrow, while they add enhanced beauty. 
How richly green the soft carpet that covers the ground ! 
What land can compare with ours, at this season, for 
diversity of leaf and tint, and depth of color ? Where is 
the tropical landscape that, with all its luxuriance, can 
compete with it, or that can compensate by its tangle and 
variety for the absence of turf ? Trees and grass make 
a paradise of any Northern home, nor need we envy those 
sun-burned lands where that chief element of beauty — the 
greensward — is wanting. 


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Month of roses and of birds among the bowers! 
Month, too, of those luscious fruits, strawberries and 
cherries, which give us a foretaste of the bounties of 
summer, the first of that succession of delicious small 
fruits which no other clime produces in such exquisite 
perfection. Raspberries, currants, blackberries and 
whortleberries fill up the whole period until autumn, 
to be followed by the larger but equally characteristic 
fruits, pears, apples, plums, peaches and grapes. Short 
as our period of vegetation is, ft more than rivals the 
tropics in the brief abundance, as well as exquisite flavor 
of its productions. The deep sleep of winter seems to be 
necessary to so brave an awakening. Nor is it in fruits 
alone that this climate so excels ; the round of vegetables 
also feels the superior influence, and gives us — happy 
dwellers in the temperate zone — what no other clime can 
furnish in perfection. I mention but one, — ^the lordly 
and incomparable " Indian corn.** Ab una disce omnes ! 

Sudden as is the transition of winter into summer, and 
short as that summer is, it is full of tropical character. 
Sometimes, for days together, the temperature exceeds 
that which is experienced under the equator, I have 
known persons born under the line, or accustomed to 
the sun of the West Indies, who complained of the op- 
pressive heat of our Northern summer, and wished them- 
selves escaped to the cooler airs of the tropics. At such 
periods vegetation is stimulated into excessive activity, 
and plants of a certain class are produced and ripen in an 
incredibly short time. An instance, universally known, 
is that American plant, the Maize, which comes to per- 
fection even several degrees further north, while it refuses 
to grow with equal luxuriance in the extreme South. 
Allied to the sugar-cane, its rapid endogenous growth, its 


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Tropical character. 


long sheathing leaves, tasselled top and silky ears, and 
its stately appearance, remind us of tropical productions. 
What a magnificent specimen of the grass kind it is! 
And the full corn in the ear, — how unspeakably superior 
to all other known grains ! No wonder our Puritan an- 
cestors, under the spell of this new-found wonder, lived 
and flourished on hasty-pudding. Or that Barlow, one of 
the earliest of our poets, should sing of the maize — 

" Thy constellation ruled my natal morn, 
And all my bones were made of Indian corn.** 

The daily extension of the blades of maize may be 
counted by inches, and on a still, warm summer flight the 
crackling sounds of growth may be distinctly heard. 

Still more astonishing is the rapidity with which the 
coarser vines, squash and pumpkin — natives, too, of 
America and its temperate clime — push themselves 
along ; a foot in twenty-four hours being no uncommon 
growth during our torrid days ! But the tropical char- 
acter of our climate is perhaps better exhibited in the 
facility and perfection with which many trees and plants 
of really tropical origin, or closely allied to such, come 
to perfection in our latitude. I may instance the castor- 
bean among herbaceous plants, and the tulip-tree, the 
cucumber-magnolia and the pawpaw among trees. 

Nor are other features wanting, to show how close is 
the communion we hold during our brief summers with 
those lands where summer is eternal. Usually our dry 
atmosphere causes the nights to be cool, and even cold, 
after a day of almost intolerable heat ; but there are, not 
unfrequently, nights that in sultry fervor are truly tropical. 
Nights in which it is enjoyment to dispense with all the 
usual coverings. 


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Even the sounds are now tropical, and recall Hum- 
boldt's description of insect life in South America. 
The stridulous note of the Cicada is incessant. How 
few have ever seen these insects, or are familiar with 
their form and life, yet how they fill the whole palpitat- 
ing air with the music of their love-notes. The melody 
comes to our ears, not in a continuous strain, but in a 
regular beat or throb, broken occasionally by a louder 
note, which rises above, and for a moment overpowers, 
the universal din. 

About August the querulous Katy-dids add their 
voices, and distinct above other sounds fill the ear with 
their contentions. They do not scatter, like other cicada, 
but congregate in some favorite spot in the grove, where, 
undisturbed by a world full of wranglings of its own, 
they may dispute upon the great problem of their lives, 
still no nearer solution, — " Katy did, Katy did ; Katy 
did-e-nt.** How well Holmes has written of them : 

" 1 love to hear thy gentle voice, wherever thou art hid. 
Thou testy little dogmatist, thou pretty Katy-did. 
I think there is a knot of you beneath yon hollow tree ; 
A knot of spinster Katy-dids, — do Katy-dids drink tea ? 

" Do tell me where did Katy live, and what did Katy do ? 
Was she so very fair and young, and yet so wicked too ? 
Did Katy Iovq. some naughty man, or kiss more cheeks than one ? 
I warrant Katy did no more than many a Kate has done." 

What hosts of insects, brought to life by the heated 
atmosphere, have the night for their season of active ex- 
istence and enjoyment. Only a part of animated na- 
ture sleeps through the hours of darkness. How little 
we, who slumber, know of the world that is abroad 
throughout the beautiful summer night. 


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There are " voices of the night " unsung by Long- 
fellow. Some homely and familiar voices, scorned by 
the vulgar, but which to the ear attuned to a harmony 
untaught by human masters, are full of music. 

From the marshy bayous of our river comes up at sum- 
mer eventide the croak of frogs. A pleasing music is 
the nightly concert of these dwellers in the reeds and 
the shallow river-side. Was Pan their earliest instructor? 
First there is a rattling falsetto of small notes, varied by 
deep tones, like the heavy twang of a bass-viol. When 
one of these big-voiced fellows tunes up, another and 
sorhetimes a third strikes in, keeping up a simultaneous 
clangor, of about five seconds duration. Then succeeds 
an interval of silence, — a five-bar rest, — lasting fifteen or 
twenty seconds, when the leader again assumes his viol, 
and is assisted as before. These notes are heard a long way 
off. On still nights they are very distinctly heard from 
across the river, a full mile distant, a nightly challenge 
from the Canuck to his Yankee cousins over the way. 

Though his praises are not sung by poets, and to 
many ears his notes are harsh, and suggestive of marsh 
and. malaria, the association of the frog with the early 
summer, with plashing waters and dropping rains, with 
the early cowslip, and the fresh grass in the moist 
meadow, make him a welcome attendant upon the season. 

The note of the tree-frog is similar to that of his 
small brother of the marsh, and is loud and incessant 
throughout the night. These night voices do not assume 
a continuous strain, fatiguing to the ear, but occur with 
intervals of silence, like the measured breathings of a 
sleeping person, and consist with rhythmical harmony. 

Another pleasing sound of the summer night is the 
sighing of the breeze in the tree-tops. It is like the rush 


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of waves upon the beach, subsiding with the same gentle 
murmur, soothing in its crescendo and its fall. 

Moonlight is a feature of the summer night, in the 
neighborhood of the lakes, which the peculiar clearness 
of the atmosphere renders exceedingly brilliant. Such 
nights can be thoroughly enjoyed only in the dewy fresh- 
ness of the country, amid grass and shrubbery and fine old 
trees, where quiet reigns, and human sounds are ban- 

Were we to analyze the nature of the charm which 
the moonlight has upon us, it would be found to be 
partly physical ; the coolness, the quiet and the shade 
being soothing to all the senses. But the charm lies 
deeper than this. The landscape which we see by day 
is not the same as that seen under the canopy of night 
and her queen. The light which rests like a mantle on 
the earth is soft and silvery, unlike the dazzling glow of 
sunshine. Even in this feebler light shadows are more 
strongly drawn. The contrasts are deeper, from the ab- 
sence of reflected light, which breaks up and diminishes 
the effect of shadows by day. Objects and their shadows 
are so nearly alike that they blend, the former seeming 
to be duplicated rather. The apparent size of objects is 
enlarged, which gives them a grander outline. A bush 
becomes a tree^ and trees tower more majestically, for 
the glare of sunshine belittles. They loom like giants 
against the lower sky, and throw their dark shadows 
toward you, as if these were a part of themselves. De- 
fects which are too apparent in the garish light that the 
sun throws upon all things, are hidden under Luna's ten- 
der sway. Tree and shrub assume greater perfectness of 
form. Her white beams glisten from every polished, 
upturned leaf, only to make deeper the contrast with the 


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blackness beneath. Out of this depth of shadow the 
foliage appears larger and more abundant. As the. eye 
cannot penetrate the gloom, the scanty arbor becomes a 
deeply covered bower. Imagination called into play 
pictures unreal beauties in the landscape. 

A still greater charm of moonlight consists in the nlys- 
tery with which nature is invested. The half known is 
always mysterious. The solemn stillness which prevails 
with the close of restless day, the myriad eyes that look 
down upon us from the firmament, the impotence of 
mortal vision to penetrate the half-revealed obscurity, 
the new and almost unknown kinds of animated beings 
which have their. season of life in the absence of the sun, 
all tend to fill the soul with awe. Part of the mysterious 
charm of moonlight may be attributed to its rnoral influ- 
ence. The sun is a male principle ; it stimulates man' to 
the active pursuit of business or pleasure, and arouses 
worldly anibition. The moon is a female power. She 
pronipts to meditation, to religious feelings. We are 
nearer heaven by night than by day, whither our souls 
expand in the serene light of its apparent queen, or 
yield to the sweet influences of the Pleiades. 

Excessive heats and droughts are by no means pecu- 
liar to this latitude in America, or characteristic of this 
region. Yet such periods are common, and are some- 
times of many weeks* continuance. 

Nor are these coincident with the hottest months. 
The ** heated terms " occur usually in July and August ; 
sometimes, but more rarely, in June and September ; oc- 
casionally even in May, as in 1874. It is not uncommon 
for the thermometer to indicate 80° to 90° in the shade, 
for several days in succession, a powerful sun pouring 


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down his unclouded rays upon the roasting earth, and 
producing an atmospheric condition more oppressive than 
the midday of the tropics. Should the air be still, it is 
possible for the night to take on a character hardly less 
endurable than the day. But such nights are happily rare. 

It is often remarked that a "dry spell'* is apt to 
occur at the season of the farmer's harvest. So, though 
the gathering in of the grain and hay is a most swel- 
tering operation, it is the sort of weather to be prayed 
for at this particular juncture. We are also seldom with- 
out the mitigation of the life-giving westerly winds which, 
like "the good Doctor" of the West India Islands, 
serve to render the heat endurable, even under the tem- 
perature of 90 degrees. At these times the difference 
between the heated atmosphere of the city and that 
which prevails upon the river and in the environs is very 
noticeable, amounting to 8 or 10 degrees. 

On such occasions all nature, animate and inanimate, 
succumbs to the dominion of Phoebus. The air quivers 
in the fervid beams which rest upon all exposed objects. 
The leaves hang indolently from the trees. The wise 
man seeks the shade, and even there finds no escape but 
in perfect rest. 

** Look forth upon the earth, her thousand plants 
Are smitten ; even the dark, sun-loving maize 
Faints in the field beneath the torrid blaze ; 
The herd beside the shadeid fountain pants." 

Blasts from an arctic winter seem then endurable in 
the comparison. Fortunately such terms are of short 
duration, three or four days at the most, and then, the 
pendulum of the weather swings in the opposite direc- 
tion, and sometimes causes us to wish the hot weather 
back again. Extremes of this kind are more severe 


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away from the lakes and in latitudes still more north- 
erly. I have experienced at Montreal heat more unen- 
durable than any I ever felt at Detroit. 

These periods of heat and drought often find sudden 
relief in summer storms. 

Perhaps the day has been without a cloud, and while 
the earth is fairly staggering in the burning rays, sud- 
denly black clouds gather in the western horizon. A 
sound is heard like the boom of a distant cannon. It is 
repeated at intervals, with growing distinctness. The 
clouds with their swift wings soon cover the heavens and 
obliterate the sun. Presently an angry flash portends 
the speedy onset of a tempest. The wind begins to roar 
and bend the trees, which sway wildly ; dust flies in 
clouds before it, a few large drops fall ; when suddenly 
down comes the watery tempest. It is not rain, but a 
cataract. A few moments suffice to convert the lately 
dry highways into streams, and torrents rush along the 
. gutters. In a few minutes the storm has expended its 
fury, and ceases suddenly as it came. But what havoc 
has it occasioned, in gullies worn in the steep roadways, 
and in the growing and tender corn prostrated ! Never- 
theless it is a thankful gift to the parched earth, bestow- 
ing instant greenness and renewed life to nature, and 
freshness and purity to the atmosphere. 

The amount of water which falls in these summer 
storms is seldom great, though copious for the time it 
lasts. In this respect it is in strong contrast with the 
rain-storms of the tropics, where the precipitation of a 
few hours sometimes equals that of the whole month in 
the temperate zone. 

Rarely the storm visits us with a more terrible earnest- 
ness. The play of the lightning and the loud crash of 


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the thunder— echoing peal on peal— which accompany 
the descending torrent are grand in the extreme, and ap- 
palling to the stoutest nerves. Fortunate if, while man 
escapes^ some noble tree, the pride of the grove, is not 
rent and shattered by the bolt or the blast. 

Happy, too, should this angry tempest be but the pre- 
cursor of more gentle but copious showers that follow, 
assuring its benefaction. And what is more delightful 
than the soft patter of the rain upon the trees and grass 
when it comes in its kindly mood. 

Perhaps all day long clouds have" been giving promise 
of the much needed refreshment ; but we get used to 
frequent disappointment in our climate, where it is a 
truthful maxim that "all signs fail in dry weather." 
All day long the struggle lasts between sun and cloud, 
but just at nightfall the latter prevails, and the increas- 
ing blackness gives welcome token of the promise about 
to be fulfilled. 

Large but scattered drops, at first few and far between, 
descend as precursors of the more than golden shower. 
How deliciously soft and cool is the atmosphere ! What 
an expectation pervades all nature ! Then comes the rapid 
rainfall, making sweet music, as housetop and tree, dusty 
street and bending grass alike give forth a grateful mur- 

" Wakening each little leaf to sing." 

Then when the clouds break, and the sun again asserts 
his predominance, though with gentle force, how joyous 
and fresh the earth he shines upon ! How sparkle the 
myriad crystal drops, each a liquid . lens, that hang on 
every branch and leaf and blade. No jewels of Golconda 
ever equalled the prismatic display. Each wet leaf is a 


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mirror, reflecting the soft radiance. And see ! above the 
new-bom earth hangs the bow in the cloud ; symbol of 
beauty, token of peace to men of willing mind. " Look 
upon the rainbow and praise Him that made it ; very 
beautiful it is in the brightness thereof. It compasseth 
the heaven about with a glorious circle, and the hands of 
the Most High have bended it." * 

Sudden storms and high winds are universal phenom- 
ena, from which this region is by no means exempt. 
But though I have known the grain laid prostrate, and 
occasionally a tree overthrown or a limb torn off, it is 
not a little remarkable that during the entire period of 
my fifty-year records no storm of greater violence, or 
having the character of a tornado — with a single excep- 
tion, which I shall notice hereafter — has occurred. Nor 
have I known, except rarely, a pane of glass broken by 
hail. Destructive gales and tornadoes are of no unusual 
occurrence in places not far removed, and we read with 
pain in the daily journals sad tales of the disasters at- 
tending them. The forests of this State record the pas- 
sage in past times of terrific whirlwinds, in narrow, deso- 
lated tracts, sometimes of many miles in length ; but, 
whatever may be the cause, the immediate vicinity of 
the lakes has happily claimed almost entire exemption. 

The changeableness of our climate is sometimes un- 
comfortably illustrated in the rapid and great fall of the 
mercury, consequent upon a change of the wind, from 
south and west, to north and east. On these occasions 
it is not uncommon to experience an extreme difference 
of temperature, within an hour or two. A person 
leaving his home in the morning, sweltering in a torrid 

♦ Kcclesiasticqs xliii., ii. 


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atmosphere, in his thinnest clothing, may return before 
night, shivering under a temperature fall of 40 degrees. 
A most untropical feature this, and no doubt quite preju- 
dicial to health. 

Fortunate it is if we escape a frost, even in midsummer, 
for if a dry air prevails this is possible in any month, 
from March to November. Frosts and dry weather ac- 
company each other. My notes have entries like this : 
1836, May 8 to 12. — Very warm and dry. Ther. has 
stood at 82 ° in the shade of my house, yet mornings are 
frequently accompanied by frost. 

The year 1853 was remarkably dry and warm, the 
thermometer indicating 94° in June, and rising to 99° 
August II to 14. This heated term extended over the 
northern United States. On Aug. 28 a severe frost fell 
upon Central Michigan. For five months, ending Oct. 
21, with the exception of a slight shower, there was not 
rain sufficient to lay the dust. Extensive fires spread 
through the woods and marshes. These will be spe- 
cially noticed in treating of some of the features of our 

In 1859, after ^^ early spring, but dry, on the nth and 
I2th June, severe frosts occurred, from Central New 
York to Iowa, and even as far south as Cincinnati. 
Maize and other tender crops were badly cut down, and 
fruit was injured. The latter part of June was con- 
tinuously warm ; but frosts again occurred July 4 and 5, 
though slight. The mercury, during the middle and 
latter parts of this month, rose to 94° in the city. 

Aug. 28 and 29, again frosts occurred, searing tender 
plants. No rain had fallen for four months \ 

This year frosts occurred in every one of the twelve 
months. Only seven and a half inches of water fell dur- 


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ing the summer months, and but 29 inches during the 
entire year. Such seasons are exceptional, and show 
that droughts and frosts are coincident phenomena. 

The year 1858 furnished an example of a very warm 
summer, but one that was attended with abundant rains, 
and no frosts from April to October. As this year pre- 
sents in its features a typical summer, or an average of 
more than half the summers of this locality, I quote 
from my journal somewhat in detail : 

June I to 15. — Continued cool, with frequent and 
heavy rains, drenching the country and threatening 
destruction to the corn crop. These rains have extended 
over a large portion of the United States, since the ist 
of May, embracing all the Middle States. At the south 
immense damage was occasioned by the breaking of 
levees on the Mississippi. A Pittsburg journal states 
that the average of observations gives about ten inches 
rainfall in May, and five inches to 12th June, or fifteen 
inches in forty-three days. I have no data for the 
amount which fell at Detroit. 

From the middle to end of June, very warm and dry, 
with scarcely a shower. The mercury ranged from 
80° to 95° nearly everyday, — a heated term of very 
unusual length. 

July I to 15. — Continues warm, but with some showers. 
Thermometer, at the city, often ninety degrees in the 
shade. At my house, exposed to the breezes from the 
river, and free from reflected heat, it has not been above 
86°, Latter half of month very dry. 

August set in with heavy rains, which continued at 
intervals until the 5th, fully saturating the earth, and 
producing immense growth of vines and vegetables. 


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Aug. 20. — The weather until to-day has been exces- 
sively warm. Highest of the thermometer at my house 
85°. , In the city it is reported at 98°. 

This high temperature continued through September. 
Considerable sickness followed, from fevers, which 
assumed a typhoid character. 

All the summer months of 1858 were above the 
normal temperature, and the mean was five degrees 
above. The rainfall was also in excess about 3.5 inches^ 

The years 1875 ^"d 1878 I shall notice as examples of 
very changeable summers ; of generally cool tempera- 
ture, being each below the normal, but of excessive rain- 

The spring of 1875 had been very cold and dry, with 
frosts down to loth of May, when a sudden rise took 
place to 84°, succeeded again by cold weather. The early 
part of June was dry. By the middle of that month the 
foliage of trees was mostly fully grown. The latter part 
brought excessive rains, with moderate temperature, ris- 
ing once to 90°. 

On June 28 occurred a most unusual phenomenon for 
this region. Following the clearing up of a rain-storm, a 
tornado struck the north-western suburbs of Detroit, de- 
molishing twenty-one cottages, and destroying two lives. 
No such occurrence has been known here before or since, 
during my residence of half a century. 

July opened warmer, with temperature at 80°, but con- 
tinued and closed agreeably cool, with rains sufficient 
for garden crops, which came in early. 

In August there were frequent rains, with generally 
cool weather until the 23d, when frost occurred in the 
neighborhood. In Western Michigan, from 21st to 23d, 
frosts were reported so severe as to " wipe out the entire 


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crop of cranberries, corn, potatoes and garden truck.** 
The temperature mean of the season was 68 ° , or a degree 
below normal. The rainfall, 13 inches, or 3.5 inches above 
the mean. 

The spring of 1878 was early and warm. The first 
summer month was comparatively cool, with frequent 
rains until the 2Sth ; winter clothing and fires were com- 
fortable. The thermometer ranged from 50° to 70°. 
After the 25th it rose to 80^ and soon to 86°, and the re- 
mainder of the month was warm. 

July was a remarkable month, exceptionally warm and 
close. Showers were frequent and heavy. The wind 
was often in a northerly quarter, which served to allay 
the sensible heat; but the mercury was at 80° and up- 
wards for more than twenty-three days, and on the 17th 
rose to 100°, — the highest on my records. The rainfall 
amounted to 8.8 inches, almost the normal mean for the 
summer season, and nearly one-fourth the entire pre- 
cipitation of the highest years in my series. 

August was warm and moist, but without excessive 
heat, and with many days of rain. The general mean of 
the summer was only 74°, notwithstanding the exception- 
ally hot July. The total rainfall was 15 inches, or one- 
third more than the normal for the season. 

Sudden changes and hot and short summers character- 
ize the whole Atlantic side of this continent ; yet there 
is a compensation even in these drawbacks. They stimu- 
late mind and body, and nature herself, to greater energy, 
and they add that variety and contrast which, according 
to the old saw, are the spice of life. 

July and August, which constitute our true summer, 
crowd the watering-places with visitants, denizens of the 


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crowded, stifling city, eager for pure air and a glimpse of 
that nature which the town denies them. No doubt our 
bih'ous climate renders any change, even to the country 
resident, serviceable to health. 

But a country home is the best place for the enjoyment 
of the pleasures of summer. Here are her choicest 
haunts, here is her true paradise. The season is too 
short, life itself is too short to be spent in the dry and 
artificial city, when " every blooming pleasure waits with- 
out," to bless those who accept the invitation. 

To watch the development of nature's green and grow- 
ing things, their progress from the first opening bud to 
matured perfection, to observe the sights and sounds, 
and inhale the sweet breath of nature in this season of 
her prodigality, when the trees have their richest dress, 
the flowers their brightest hues, the birds their sweetest 
songs, the skies their deepest blue ; when the breeze 
comes laden with choicest odors, and the dews and rains 
with blessings from above, — these combine to make the 
brief period which constitutes the summer of this region 
one of intense delight, more real, more intense from its 
very briefness and contrasts. 

This lake region has been long noted for its clear and 
brilliant atmosphere, and for those effects which are at- 
tendant upon it. Not in famed Italy are the skies so 
pure, and so deeply blue ; nor do the clouds pile up so 
magnificently, and display such ever-shifting and gor- 
geous panorama, in any other land. Shall I confess to 
be a builder of castles in that unsubstantial region ; that 
my imagination sometimes runs riot in those ethereal 
fields, or 

" . . . . bestrides the lazy pacing clouds. 
And sails upon the bosom of the atr ? ** 


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Certainly the heavens, whether by night or day, are 
one of the features which add peculiar attractiveness to 
a region where mists and fogs seldom obscure their 
brightness, and no mountains shut from view the cloud- 
land which lies along the horizon, or bar out the splen- 
dors of closing day. To the contemplative mind the 
clouds are ever a study, and a continued delight and 
wonder. They compensate, to a great degree, for the 
absence of mountain scenery, and in their ever changing 
forms and varying lights they bear a resemblance to their 
more substantial prototypes. 

For excursions into this attractive land frequent op- 
portunity is afforded by the extent of open horizon. 
Here the clouds accumulate in mountain masses, pile 
upon pile, until they rival the Alps in grandeur of out- 
line, and they raise lofty peaks, which seem covered with 
purest snow, far above the region of perpetual frost. At 
other times they lie in lengthened strata, like distant 
savannas, with calm oceans beyond, amid islands, which 
in the setting sun reflect his rays in scarlet, vermilion 
and gold. Certainly in this level country cloud-land is a 
most beautiful and attractive land, worthy to be a home 
for the immortals. 

" Mid yon rich clouds* voluptuous pile 
Methinks some spirit of the air 
Might rest to gaze below awhile. 
Then turn to bathe and revel there." 

The beauty of the sunsets in the lake region has been 
often noticed, and, whatever science may determine as to 
the causes of the phenomena, it is certain that they are a 
remarkable feature, which adds greatly to the charm of 
our summers and autumns. I find in my journal some 
attempts at description, which may serve to give an 


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idea, though very imperfect, of the characteristic phe- 
nomena : 

June 20, 1867, closed with a brilliant sunset. The day 
had been one of the warmest of the season, but not 
cloudless. Towards evening heavy banks of cumuli 
hung upon the horizon to the east and south, while along 
the west lay narrow strata, showing broad openings of 
sky between, to a height of about thirty degrees. ^ Above 
these extended a panorama of cirro-cumuli, — almost a 
"mackerel sky'* — heavier below, but becoming more 
light and fleecy towards the zenith. 

When the sun set, the clouds in the western sky be- 
came all of pure gold, — the low-lying strata glowing like 
a furnace, and the same hue lighted up the broken 
fleeces far into the zenith,— golden fleeces, indeed, 
worthy the admiration of an Argonaut. The sky seen 
through the lower strata was a delicate pea-green, grad- 
uating into the blue above. Through the golden fleeces 
the expanse of ether appeared of a depth and vividness 
of blue seldom equalled. Higher up, the bright lights 
upon the scattered wavelets gave to the blue empyrean 
an almost infinity of distance, resembling the star-lighted 

At the same time the mountainous piles on the south 
and east, reaching from the horizon half way up the 
zenith, were painted with a deep crimson, whose warm 
blush met and mingled with the golden tints overhead. 
Altogether it was a most entrancing spectacle. 

Some account of a more than usually phenomenal sun- 
set I copy from my notes of 1864, Nov. 19. 

The day had been one of the pleasantest of the late 
autumn, cold but clear in the morning, clouding up dur- 
ing the latter part of the day, until sunset, when sud- 


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denly the western sky became all aglow with gorgeous 
color. From the point in the horizon where the sun 
went down a mass of fleecy clouds extended, in the form 
of an inverted pyramid, to the zenith, and thence across 
to the opposite horizon. Below, from the same point 
to its opposite in the east, narrow belts of cloud swept 
across the sky, forming low arcs. The centre mass, from 
the horizon to half way overhead, and the lower portions 
of the belts, presented the most brilliant combination 
of crimson and scarlet it is possible to conceive ; the 
structure being like piles of wool, sufficiently dense to 
conceal the sky beyond, and giving increased effect to 
the coloring by its varying tints. The patches of sky 
visible between the central mass and the belts was of 
clear apple-green, shading into the blue. 

This splendid spectacle lasted about a quarter of an 
hour, fading with the daylight. At a little after five 
o'clock the brightness had disappeared, and the clouds 
assumed their previous dun hue. 

But the phenomenon did not end here. As twilight 
deepened a faint blush began to tinge the fleecy surface, 
like colored lights reflected from waves. With the grad- 
ually departing daylight the blush deepened into rouge, 
and in a few minutes the banks and belts of cloud-land 
were again lighted up, with a splendor of coloring 
scarcely less brilliant than before, the hue inclining to 
orange. This new flood of rosy light soon involved the 
whole heavens, to its very eastern limit, while below 
the clouds the western and southern horizon glowed with 
clear gold. For a quarter of an hour this brilliant 
vision increased momentarily in breadth and intensity, and 
a full half hour elapsed before it faded entirely away. 

I have often seen colors as gorgeous in the western 


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sky, but never before, in any land, the singular phenom- 
enon of the reappearing of the colors with such splendor 
after an interval of total absence, nor so long a continu- 
ance of the display. No art of man can paint the equal 
of this gorgeous scene. Scarcely can any conception of 
man*s rise to its reality. It was a scene to remember 
all one*s days. 

How does the sunset hour, with its surcease of daily 
cares, dispose the contemplative mind to drink to the 
full all this harmony and beauty, and to raise a song 
of thanksgiving to its author, who has spread upon his 
curtain of the sky * colors so delicate with those which 
are so rich and gorgeous. As 

" . . . . fades the glimmering landscape on the sight, 
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,*' 

what a serenity and peace are breathed over the face of 
nature, even setting at rest the stormy passions in the 
heart of man. 

Filled are these twilight hours with sweet and ten- 
der musings ; with memories of the loved and gone, 
who with us once watched the sun*s parting rays, uncon- 
scious how soon he was to set to them forever. But 
behind these dun clouds of the soul are glowing brighter 
hopes, and the future is gilded with a golden glory. 

In the splendor of its setting, parting day has thrown 
upon the storm clouds his many-colored robes, to give 
assurance to the world of a benignant morrow. 

So, to the just, these are an emblem of hope ; that he 
too, after the storms of life, may sink as calmly to rest. 

♦"Thou deckest thyself with light, as it were with a garment, 
And spreadest out the heavens like a curtain." — Psalm civ. 


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and, clad in robe of brightness, rise to a fairer and better 
0;:: day, while the rapt vision will penetrate beyond the 
3 veil, and gain some nearer conception of His glory in the 
[1 heavens who can light up the gateway with such celes- 
tial splendors. 


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' . , . . And in the Autumn time 
Earth has no purer and no lovelier clime." 


* Aye, thou art welcome, Heaven's delicious breath I 
When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf, 
And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief. 
And the year smiles as it draws near its death." 



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NO period of the year impresses us more 'sensibly 
with the rich fulness of nature's blessings than 
the verging of summer into autumn. 

Before the leaves have quite begun to decay, or the 
trees to throw off their verdant dress, and the harvests 
are still in the fields, is peculiarly the husbandman's sea- 
son of joyful promise. Vegetation has perfected its 
growth, and the juices are now passing into the fruit. 
The great alchemist has outdone philosophers, and in 
her wondrous crucibles has perfected that mingling of 
ingredients which is about to convert her materials into 

If the past season has been favorable the farmer now 
looks with delight upon waving fields whitening in the 
sun ; the lordly maize hanging its wilted tassels, signify- 
ing that the ear is receiving the golden glaze of maturity 
he has so long awaited, ** first the blade, then the ear, 
and now the full corn in the ear." The earth-loving 
potato IS assimilating the starchy mealiness which is its 
last claim from its mother's bosom. The fat pumpkin 
begins to glow with the absorbed beams of summer, and 
the dainty buckwheat is waiting for cooler suns to drop 
its flowers of pink and white, and display its well-remem- 
bered and old-fashioned, three-cornered grains of rusty 

The garden, too, has reached its full luxuriance. The 
purple beet, well filled with sweet juices, the green-leaved 



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parsnips and delicately-branched carrots already heave 
their eager bodies half way out of the earth. Crisp cab- 
bages, whose bellies swell with digestive nutriment, like 
some dinner-loving alderman ; rapid-growing cucumbers, 
cool even in the midday sun ; refreshing, delicious mel- 
ons, and other vegetables too numerous to mention, 
honor equally their proper department. The horticult- 
urist may now pause in his labors to admire the glow 
and wealth around him, before the blasting frosts have 
begun to destroy the beauty he has assisted to create. 

He now calculates with certainty the result of his 
cares, in the orchard and vineyard. The apple, prince of 
the domain of fruits ; the juicy, mellow pear ; the ripen- 
ing plum, tempting with its rich juiciness and bloom ; 
the luscious grape, hanging, in deepening clusters on the 
vine ; the downy quince, of blended green and gold ; the 
melting peach, blushing like a maiden in its soft matu- 
rity, — all give assurance that the dangers of worm and 
mildew are passed, and that their owner may indulge 
no dubious anticipations of reward. 

Very gradual is the coming on of autumn in this cli- 
mate. Two or three nipping frosts succeed, often quite 
suddenly, warm, summery days, about the beginning of 
September. Vines wilt, and hang in blackening patches, 
where all lately was so green. The maize turns brown, 
and soon presents but dry, rustling foliage. 

By October the forest has begun to mark the prog- 
ress of the year, each tree hastening, as its individual na- 
ture inclines it, with more or less alacrity, to do its part 
in the gay carnival with which nature delights to close 
its annual festival. Soon nuts begin to drop in the 
woods. The farmer gathers in the remaining harvests, 
and stores his fruits and vegetables, his energies quick- 


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ened betimes by icy frosts, and perhaps an untimely 

At the commencement of the autumnal months we 
begin sensibly to feel the declining vigor of the sun. 
The color of his rays is perceptibly paler. They no 
longer beat on the head, lucklessly exposed at noon, 
with that oppressive power, which is felt to be so ener- 
vating in our July, and August. We can almost endure 
to look him in the face, as his radiance beams 

"Aslant the dew-bright earth and colored air." 

The bracing atmosphere brings balm to the spirit and 
vigor to the frame. 

As the season advances, the influence of our proximity 
to the Great* Lakes becomes perceptible in the lengthen- 
ing out of the autumn time, — a repelling of the advances 
of winter. 

Summer is not fairly closed when the stormy days set 
in of the September equinox. A rainy period ** about 
these days ** is set down in all the almanacs. But it may 
be one or two weeks earlier or later than the equinox. 
It may not come at all — ** all signs fail in dry weather." 
Hard frosts, which put a period to vegetable growth, 
come from about the first to the end of October, being 
very variable, but such always precede the period which 
has been designated as the Indian Summer. 

This soft season, so full of poetry, if not of romance, 
is among the very uncertain things of this uncertain 
climate. Often successive autumns pass which afford 
scarcely a day that may justly claim the designation. 
November, its especial season, is often anything but 
golden. A few bright, sunny days beam out along its 


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course, and cheat us with an expectation that is doomed 
to disappointment. 

Early New England writers speak of this serene por- 
tion of autumn as peculiar to America, hence the name 
they gave it. But we look in vain for any recognition 
of it in pages not more than half a century old. It 
seems to have departed from the land of the Puritans 
with the vanished forests, and doubtless these had much 
to do with its former prevalence. The French of Can- 
ada called the season ** St. Martin's summer," as it 
came about the time of the calendar day of that saint. 

Here too, and in the region of the lakes, its visits have 
become somewhat like those of the angels, though it 
has not deserted this, its favorite abode, altogether, as is 
the case in the Puritan's land. But so many years pass 
with so little semblance of it, that many even here are 
apt to look upon its existence as fabulous. 

Yet the Indian summer is no myth. It often breaks 
upon us from the very midst of storm, frost and snow, 
true to the tradition, that there must first be a " squaw 
winter ** before we can have an " Indian summer." At 
once the icy blasts are locked securely in their northern 
caves, the snow melts and the earth dries under a genial 
sunshine. The calm, still atmosphere is filled with a 
smoky haze, which hangs like a veil over the landscape. 
Day after day succeeds of most delicious, dreamy soft- 
ness ; not enervating like the heats of summer, but exhil- 
arating to soul and body. For the rains and the frost 
have purified the atmosphere, rendering it elastic and 
bracing. The sun's rays have lost their power to op- 
press, and bring only enjoyment. How softly his beams 
fall on all surrounding objects,— the gold without the 


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glitter. What a delicious atmosphere; we can almost 
fly in it ! 

** how soft the blue, 

That throws its mantle o'er the lengthening scene." 

Neither Eastern dimes nor rural England can produce 
anything to compare with this balmy sunshine and 
this glorified landscape, shrouded in the hazy canopy 
of Indian summer ! 

Pleasant as our autumns usually are, — the most lovely 
and enjoyable of all the seasons, — not more than one in 
three or four presents any period of successive days 
which take on the character of well-defined Indian sum- 
mer. Intervals between such years may vary from one 
to ten. A single fine day, or even many fine, sunny 
days in October or November, broken by alternating 
rainy, snowy or frosty ones, do not constitute a period 
worthy the name. Of the fifty years, from 1835 to 1885, 
ten are marked on my calendar as having each a full 
week of well defined Indian summer, viz., 1837, '39, '44, 
'48, 'S3, '59, *68, *73> *75 ^^d, '84; two as having eleven to 
fifteen days, viz., 1840 and '50; two as having thirty days, 
1865 and *74, and one 42 days, 1849. 

Of the -fifteen autumns above named, eight may be 
classed among those having a generally normal character, 
both as to temperature and rainfall, — 1837, *40, '44 » '48, '59» 
'68, '73 and, '75 ; six belong to warm and rather dry sea- 
sons,— 1839, '50, '53, '65, '74 and '84,— in which the rain- 
fall was one-half to two-thirds the normal amount. One — 
1849 — 5s quite exceptional, having forty-two days of well 
defined Indian summer. One other season only ap- 
proaches it, that of 1865, a cold, changeable and dry year, 
but closing with an autumn exceedingly pleasant and 


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560 AOTUMN-flMM. 

warm ; the whole month of November being balmy and 
delightful, though with comparatively little of the haze 
which characterizes the true Indian summer. 

I have alluded to the autumn of 1849 ^s remarkable for 
its long continuance of Indian summer. 

The last summer month was warm and accompanied 
with frequent showers in this locality, while dry weather 
prevailed at the East and South. September had so little 
rain that the roads were dusty through the latter part of 
the month ; when strong winds announced the approach 
of the equinoctial storm, which set in on the 29th with 
soaking rains. 

At the beginning of the third week in October the 
Indian summer commenced, and continued, with scarcely 
an interruption to the balmy, hazy atmosphere, until 24th 
November — a period of seven weeks, when it closed with 
a dense fog, followed by rain and cold. 

The mean temperature of the autumn was 54*^, or 4° 
above the normal ; the rainfall, 1 1 inches, or 3 inches 
above the average. 

The winter which succeeded was rather open, without 
extreme cold. 

The fall season of 1865 followed upon a summer that was 
very changeable, but cold and dry. September brought 
unusual warmth, — the real summer. The thermometer 
for days together was above 80° and showers were fre- 
quent, but the dry beds of streams were not filled. Fruit 
and crops of every kind were abundant, but the former 
fell early and decayed rapidly. Vines continued to make 
rampant growth throughout the month. Scarcely any 
change took place in the foliage, which continued green 
until near the middle of October. On the 2d of this 
month a frost came, of sufficient strength to make a little 


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ice. But the month continued mild, with no hard frosts 
and very little rainfall. 

With November we entered upon a mild and delightful 
** spell/* quite Indian summer-like, clear and without 
frost, except very slight, occasionally, at night. There 
was no rain, except for a single day. A few days at the 
close assumed the soft, hazy appearance peculiar to the 
lovely season, and these continued until 3d December, 
— the haze deepening into mist, which ended in rain. 
No storm occurred during the whole autumn. 

The summer preceding the autumn of 1874 was of nor- 
mal character. September was very warm, having a 
maximum of 97° and a mean temperature of 12° above 
the normal of the month. The rainfall was only 0.67, 
being far below the normal of 2.8 inches. South-west 
winds prevailed. During both this month and October 
the skies were about equally divided between clear, 
cloudy and rainy. 

"October was normal in temperature, the mean being 51^, 
the maximum 75°, the rainfall only 0.78 inches. Sep- 
tember frosts occurred on the lOth and nth, followed by 
harder frosts on 13th and 14th. These sadly interfered 
with the change of the leaf, which had been progressing 
finely, so that leaves fell rapidly, and trees were soon 
bare. Clear, sunshiny days succeeded, but cool, with 
winds varying from north-west to west ; the temperature 
at freezing in early morning, and rising to 65 ° and 70° at 
midday. This clear, calm weather prevailed until No- 
vember 12, without rain, except slight showers. It was 
accompanied with a smoky haze, the sun rising red, as in 
a mist, and for many mornings there was a mingled fog 
and smoke. Fires spread on the marshes in Greenfield 
and Royal Oak, which were with difficulty suppressed. 


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On II th and 13th November occurred night frosts ; on* 
the 17th rain, followed by clear and cold weather. The 
first snow fell on 20th. On the 23d a furious storm, last- 
ing all day. This was general over the United States, 
east of the Mississippi, and as far south as the Gulf 
•States. The drought continued throughout the follow- 
ing winter, with unusual cold. November was normal, 
both in temperature and rainfall. The mean temperature 
of the j^^(7«was52°, or 2° above normal. Therainfall, 
3.8, or 6 inches less than the normal. 

Veiy dry periods occur here, as elsewhere, but severe 
drought is the exception. The average rainfall for the 
year being 31 or 32 inches, we have years as low as 22 
inches. The summer precipitation, whose mean is 9.5 
inches, has been — but very rarely — as low as five inches, 
and the autumn season, whose average is eight inches, 
has two or three times been as low as four inches, and 
five or six times as low as six inches, during the past half 

That droughts have been so extreme that fires, caught 
in the woods and marshes, have overrun large tracts of 
country, to the great destruction of timber, there is ample 
evidence in the past. The Indians were accustomed to 
take advantage of dry autumns to set fire to the grass 
and shrubbery on the oaklands, for the purpose of clearing 
the land of incumbrances to the pursuit of deer and other 
game. To this cause the sparse timber of the " openings " 
is in a great degree attributable. Our pine forests, too, 
have often suffered extensively from fires, both inten- 
tional and accidental. The grass of the river marshes, 
which conceals game, was regularly burned over by the 
French habitants, taking advantage of those dry spells, 
which are very common. Our autumnal-night skies are 


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Still often lighted by a brilliaht gloW ffom the marshes 
of the river Rouge and the Grand Marais. 

The fall of 1828 is said to have been marked by one 
of those disastrous droughts. In October fires overspread 
the country, commencing about the middle of the month, 
while the leaves were on. In many places the soil was 
so burned out, particularly in the ash swales, that trees 
fell together in large bodies, through the southern part 
of Wayne County and northern part of Monroe. Smoke 
was so dense that houses could not be seen from the 
roads, and everything exposed gathered stickiness. 
Rains did not fall until December, when the swamps 
filled. Vast quantities of hay were consumed, and cattle 
were left destitute of fodder. 

A year of similar destruction, within my personal ob- 
servation, is that of 1853. The summer had been 
very warm and dry, with the usual accompaniment of 
frost, which occurred in the latter part of August. From 
nth to 14th of that month the temperature ranged at 
90° to 100°. There was no rain during the whole of June 
and July, except on the single night of 25th July. 

In September, fires ran over the marshes in the north- 
ern part of this country, burning up about six inches of 
the peaty soil, and destroying some of the tamarac tim- 
ber. On the 14th rain fell sufficient to saturate a few 
inches in depth of soil. This is all that was known here of 
the equinoctial storni, which visited the south and west 
portions of the State in very severe and copious deluges. 

The drought continued until late in October. For five 
months, excepting the showers mentioned, no rain fell in 
quantity sufficient to lay the dust, which was raised in 
clouds by every passing vehicle, and added to the misty 
shroud that covered all the face of the earth. With the 


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exception of this dense mist the weather was calm, tem- 
perate and enjoyable. 

But a more formidable shroud was destined to over- 
whelm the country. My journal of October 20 records 
that for several days our city has been involved in clouds 
of smoke, driven upon us from the surrounding woods 
and marshes, which are reported on fire in every direc- 
tion. This smoke, during the prevailing calm weather, 
settles during the night, and, in combination with aque- 
ous vapor, occasions in the morning a dense fog, 
sometimes so thick as to render locomotion dangerous. 
It penetrates the houses, filling lungs, eyes and nose, 
rendering respiration difficult, and pervading everything 
with the smoky odor. People are lost in the streets ; 
vehicles run upon the sidewalks. It is worse than the 
fogs of London. 

As the sun attains greater elevation, towards noon, 
the cloud lifts or disperses, and we enjoy a few rays of 
sunshine. Lake captains report that the mist lies twenty 
miles out into Lake Erie. 

Towards evening dense, dun clouds are seen rising in 
the north and west with a very formidable appearance. 
From all entering thoroughfares travellers bring intelli- 
gence of woods on fire, in many places down to the 
roads. Many fine tracts of timber are burned and fallen. 
Fences, and in some instances houses, barns and stacks, 
have become victims to the devouring tyrant. I went out 
on the Pontiac road, ten miles from the city, to view the 
scene. The forest was on fire within two miles of De- 
troit, creating great consternation. Yet but little growing 
timber had been destroyed, the fires skimming the sur- 
face, and burning up everything that was dry. The 
swamps and marshy spots were most involved, in con- 


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sequence of the peaty soil, and here the destruction of 
timber was great, over several thousands of acres. On 
other roads the devastation was said to be still more wide- 
spread and destructive. 

On the 2 1 St rain fell, at intervals, all day, and further 
devastation was stopped. It is probable that the rain it- 
self was a consequence of the great conflagration. 

The year 1871 afforded a still more formidable illustra- 
tion of the effects of a year of drought. During the 
whole of July and August but little over one inch of rain 
fell, though the temperature was generally high, and the 
drought continued into the autumn. The rainfall 
during September and October was only two inches. In 
November three inches feU. 

Before the middle of September leaves had largely 
fallen, and the woods wore the livery of autumn. On 
17th, 1 8th, and 19th, heavy frosts occurred, doing much 
injury. Then followed some hazy weather, but no well 
defined Indian summer. 

Early in October fires spread over the marshes north 
of Detroit. In consequence of the extreme dryness in 
the whole North-west extensive forest fires occurred in 
Wisconsin and Minnesota, which burned over 3000 
square miles of territory. 

On 8th October began the great fire which destroyed 
more than half of the city of Chicago, all within twenty- 
four hours. On the same night, amid the expression of 
universal sympathy for our sister city, news came that 
the cities of Holland and Manistee, in Michigan, were in 
ashes. During the week succeeding followed tidings of 
even more disastrous fires in other parts of the Peninsula, 
particularly on the eastern and western coasts. The 
new County of Huron was almost swept over by the fire- 


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fiend ; nearly all its villages on the lake coast were de- 
stroyed. The conflagration reached into and over a large 
part of Sanilac County. At least 5000 inhabitants of 
these counties were left homeless ; farm houses, crops, 
fences, timber — all were burned up. Many people even 
perished, unable to escape the swift march of the 
flames and smoke borne on the wings of a strong wind. 
This great disaster aroused the sympathies of the whole 
country, and the substantial aid afforded subsequently 
enabled the settlers to establish themselves anew, with 
some of the comforts of life, upon their desolated fields. 

But I return to Detroit. For many days, and until 
nearly the end of the month, the atmosphere of the city 
was charged with the smoke and scent of burning woods 
and fields. 

The country, too, was destitute of water, wherever no 
large and permanent streams existed, and great distress 
resulted. But notwithstanding the prevailing drought 
the crops universally were good and fruit abundant. 

About Nov. 15 snow fell and the weather began to 
be cold and stormy ; on the 24th five inches of snow fell 
at Detroit, and the atmosphere was freezing cold. Ex- 
treme drought continued all through the winter, which 
was stormy and cold. The entire rainfall of 187 1 was 
only about twenty inches. 

The weather notes of a few seasons will serve to show, 
better than any general description, the ordinary char- 
acter of our autumns. 

The autumn of 1850 succeeded a moist and uncommonly 
warm summer. On Sept. 24 the equinoctial storm set 
in, and continued with scarcely an interruption until the 
28th. The remainder of the month brought fine weather, 


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which continued uninterruptedly through October, with 
colii nights. The harvests were unusually abundant and 
good. Malarial sickness prevailed extensively over the 

November proved equally pleasant. The latter half ac- 
companied with the hazy atmosphere peculiar to Indian 
summer, but not of so pronounced a type as that of the 
year previous. The last week of November brought rain 
and increased cold. The mean temperature of the season 
was 52 deg.; rainfall, 5.6 inches. 

The autumn of 1872 maybe classed as pleasant, with 
a. fine autumnal change. It followed upon a very warm 
summer, having a rainfall of nearly the average amount, 
but insufficient for the prevailing dryness. Some heavy 
rains fell in September, but streams were still low. Sev- 
eral frosts occurred about the middle of the month. 

The autumnal change of the leaf was brilliant and pro- 
tracted. Frosts were few and light until the 25th, follow- 
ing which a strong breeze brought down the leaves in 
great quantities. 

November favored us with a few days of calm, sunny 
weather, but scarcely any well defined Indian summer. 
It was preceded by a severe storm on the 17th, which 
was felt over the Atlantic, as far as England, with loss of 
many vessels. In our Northern States the -storm was ac- 
companied with a heavy fall of snow, blocking the rail- 
ways. At Detroit only a few inches fell, which did not 
remain long. The season closed with strong north-west 
winds, a temperature of eight deg. and two inches of snow. 

The mean of the season was 48 deg.; rainfall, six inches. 

The fall of 1876 was warm, dry and pleasant ; a tempera- 
ture somewhat below the normal ; the rainfall also normal, 
as was that of the summer. September and October con- 


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tinued rather cool and wet, and without frost until Oct. 
15. Until this date foliage was quite green; the au- 
tumnal change progressed very slowly, and with little 
brilliancy. Only a few trees were bare. After a few hard 
frosts the leaves faded and fell, without the bright and 
varied colors which so often give a lustre to the closing 

The fall of 1884 was also warm and dry. No frost oc- 
curred in September, yet the trees put on their full-colored 
dresses, the hickories and tulip trees displaying their 
glowing yellows, while the maples shed their coats early. 
This autumn succeeded a dry spring and summer, and was 
itself two inches below the normal in rainfall. October 
had all of the usual pleasant character, and was marked 
by a week of Indian summer at the close. November was 
also pleasant, and without storm. The mean tempera- 
ture of the season was five deg. above the average. 

I will close these short season-records by those of a 
single autumn, given more in detail. 

The summer of 1839 ^^s very dry, with a severe drought 
in many parts of the Northern States. August brought 
rains, blended with slight frosts. My journal of the au- 
tumn continues thus : — 

Sept. 4. Since ist inst. warm and dry. Fruit of the old 
French pear trees ripe and dropping. 

Sept. 9. Crops are coming in early, much in advance of 
the same latitude in New York. Maize is generally ready 
to be cut. 

Sept. 10. Quite cool for the last few days. Yesterday 
and to-day a high wind, almost a gale. 

Sept. II. Rain last night. Several remarkably brilliant 
auroras have been observed recently, and the night at- 
mosphere seems to have unusual transparency. 


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Sept. 12. Frosts last night. Thermometer this morning, 
24 deg. 

Sept. 13. Ice formed i-i6th inch thick. Morning foggy. 
Day mild. (This was the first severe frost of the season, 
and with others which followed sufficed to put an end to 

Sept. 15. Rain all day. Have seen no mosquitoes since 

Sept. 17. Thunder-storm last night, and drizzly rain all 

Sept. 24. Saw two wild geese flying southward, said to 
betoken cold weather. 

The frosts of a fortnight ago have hastened the au- 
tumnal changes in the forest. Maple, linden and ash 
are quite yellow ; leaves of the latter tree strewing the 

Sept. 25. More wild geese flying southward. 

Sept. 27. Rains for several nights past, ending with 
heavy frost, and quite a respectable snow-storm, 

October enters with a hard frost, whitening the ground 
and forming ice. The katy-did has been piping merrily 
for a fortnight past. 

Oct. ^. Three days of sunny weather. Yesterday almost 
as warm as July. Slight rain at night. 

Oct. 8. Rain on nights of 6th and 7th. Very warm. 

Oct. 10. Since last entry we have had a succession of 
uncommonly fine, warm days, with a south-west wind 
and heat often quite oppressive. The autumnal change 
in the forests has been rapid. Even oaks are in the dry 

Oct. II. Rain from north-east. Growing colder. 

Oct. 13. After a drizzle, yesterday, warm and pleasant 
again. Crops are generally abundant. Wheat and oats 


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a particularly good yield. Maize was very generally cut 
by the frost a week too soon for full ripening. 

Oct. 14. Forest trees are mostly denuded, or iij faded 
leaf. Poplars and willows only are green. 

The squirrel tribe, quails and pheasants are unusually 
numerous. The former are seen in large bodies on the 
march. Quails have been so ajbundant as to be killed 
with sticks in the streets of Detroit. The warm, sunny 
days which have succeeded the frosty ones have brought 
back to life the house flies, which are now almost as 
numerous as in midsummer. 

Birds are still flying around, many in full song. Since 
1st inst. I have observed the robin, towce-bunting, wren, 
woodpeckers {varius and icterocephaltis)^ bluebird, yellow- 
bird, raven, crow, blackbird, chicadee, peetweet and snow- 

The river being calm, found to-day by measurement 
that its level is below the high-water mark of last year 
1 5 inches. This is in harmony with the diminished rain- 
fall of the last two years. 

Oct. 20. Cold, with continued easterly wind. Ice formed 
this morning }i inch thick. The white-fishing season 
has commenced, but the run is yet small. 

Since 13th inst. we have been favored with balmy 
Indian summer. All nature is hushed and wrapped in a 
thin, misty robe. Through this the sun's rays fall, 
robbed of their earlier brilliance and fervor and of a 
deeper and milder red. 

Oct. 27. This delicious weather has continued until to- 
day, when a shower set in. 

Nov. 3. A week of chilly weather since last date. 

Nov. 5. A day of rain, after two mild and pleasant 


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Nov. 19. The weather has been clear and delightful, 
with a few slight frosts. Some rain last week, but the 
heavens are bright as in summer. In fact, vegetation is 
making a second growth and strawberries are in bloom. 

Nov, 20 and 21. Nights are clear and cold, thermom- 
eter down to 9 ° . The air brisk and clear, with north- 
west wind. 

Nov, 22. This morning the smoke has settled low and 
filled the atmosphere in spite of low temperature and 
clear sky. At evening the moon rose red and hazy, 
and a bright halo was visible around it. 

Nov, 23. Then at 6 A.M. at 30°. Before sunrise the 
sky in the east, filled with small mottled clouds, assumed 
a deep, beautiful crimson blush, reaching nearly to the 
zenith. The lovely meteor vanished as the sun rose 
above the horizon. At dusk both rain and hail fell, and 
a fine rain continued until 9 A.M. of the following day. 

Nov. 24. Westerly wind. During the night snow fell, 
about 2 inches, and drifted, with high wind. 

Nov. 25. At 6 A.M. then 4°. At 7 A.M. sunk to o, ris- 
ing again to 7° during the day. 

Nov. 26. Then at 7 A.M. 2^, The river is filled with 

floating ice. 

Nov. 29. Cold much moderated; then at 6 A.M. 30^. 
Navigation of the Erie Canal closed to-day. 

Nov. 30. Foggy all day. 

Soft weather continued several days, with rain and 
drizzle. The December following was mild and snow- 
less, the roads hard and dusty, the whole winter was one 
of unusual mildness. 

The mean temperature of the autumn of 1839 ^^^ 
51°, or one deg. above the normal. The rainfall, only 4 
inches, or half the normal amount. 


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' Ah ! 'twere a lot too blest 

Forever in thy colored shades to stray, 
Amid the kisses of the soft south-west 
To rove and dream for aye.'* 



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THE splendor of the autumnal change varies greatly 
with the character of the season. Sometimes we 
escape frosts, except very light ones, until the time pre- 
scribed for the fall of the leaf has arrived. Still the trees 
obey the law of change, and in their falling honors give 
token of the waning of the year. 

Maples are among the first to obey; nor do frosts seem 
necessary, either to the assumption of their brilliant vest- 
ments, or the final putting off of their summer clothing. 
Individual maples, ashes, and some other trees are often 
quite bald before their companions have begun to show 
the ** sere and yellow leaf.*' 

If the summer and fall have been dry, this ripening 
takes place earlier, in consequence. As a rule, but little 
change occurs in the forest garniture until after a frost 
of sufficient severity to cut down tender vegetables. 
Then it comes on rapidly, and soon involves the whole 
forest, so that there is a sudden and wonderful burst of 

Early in the season the wild grape vines turn yellow, 
and as they hang among the green foliage, or crown the 
tree tops in graceful festoons, give a fine, picturesque 
effect to the forest borders. 

The maples are not only among the first to feel the 

departure of summer, but are the most capricious in their 

colors. At times they assume a clear yellow, at others 

a scarlet or crimson dress. This depends somewhat upon 

• 575 


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the character of the season, but individuals have each 
their own habit in this respect ; the hard or sugar maple 
inclining oftener to the purple-reds; the soft maple to 
the yellows and orange. 

Other forest trees are more uniform in their autum- 
nal vestments. The hickories and tulips affect the yellow 
inclining to orange. The former change early, and in 
the fields rear their piles of golden foliage, like pyramids 
of sunshine, contrasting beautifully with the still green 
woods beyond. 

The elm is distinguishable by its lemon-yellow. The 
beech has a somewhat russety, but still golden hue, — 
mingled amber and buff, — and retains its foliage almost 
throughout the winter. 

Later in the season the oaks mature, and the tints 
are as varied almost as the species. In maple woods 
yellows prevail ; in oak, reds. The white oak assumes a 
russety red ; swamp oak, all the shades from red to yel- 
low. Some become a clear salmon. The brilliance of 
the red and scarlet oaks cannot be surpassed, and they 
are worthy of cultivation, for this quality alone, as an or- 
nament to our fields and grounds. They obey late the 
law of change, and are in their glory when the beauty 
of other trees o'f the forest has passed away. 

In some trees the leaves do not take on one prevailing 
hue, as in many maples, and a few oaks. Not unfre- 
quently one whole side will be red, while the rest of the 
tree is yellow. Sometimes the top alone is tinged with 
scarlet or crimson, while the parts below are quite green. 
Often each leaf presents these several hues in distinct 
patches or linings ; — suits of livery, turned up with crim- 
son and gold. 

Of the forest trees of this region particularly noted for 


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picturesqueness none add more to autumn*s triumphs 
than the pepperidge or tupelo {Nyssa). Its horizontal 
limbs are covered with glossy leaves that change to a 
lively crimson, making the tree conspicuously beautiful. 

So marked are the colors of different species of trees, 
that one may distinguish them at a great distance, — 
further than it is possible to do in summer, — and may thus 
select and count them out from among the other indi- 
viduals of the forest, the fields and the hill-sides. 

In our rambles at this delightful season, we often meet 
with a surprise. Before the woods have lost their pre- 
vailing green, we come suddenly upon some individual 
which has ripened before his fellows, and presents an ex- 
traordinary contrast and splendor of color, striking the vis- 
ion like a flash of fire. It constitutes the warm point in 
the picture, which a painter puts in, with pencil dipped 
in his most glowing reds, to light up a foreground, or re- 
lieve a sombre shadow. 

In many woods the American ivy, or Ampelopsis, adds 
finely to the brightness of the early autumn. It loves to 
clasp around some stately trunk that will lift it into sun- 
shine, and repays the favor by garlanding it with its 
palmate leaves of deepest purple and crimson. 

This vine has become a favorite in European countries, 
where it serves to enliven the duller glow of their au- 
tumns. When one sees anywhere a wall or trellis draped 
with brilliant red, he may be sure it is the American 

At this season I know no more delightful ride or ram- 
ble than the beech and maple wood. It is lit by a golden 
gleam which creates a seeming sunshine in the dullest 
day. Even the fallen leaves spread a lustrous carpet, 
that gives to the maple forest a more bright and cheer- 


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ful aspect than it wears in summer. But when a for- 
est of these trees, in the full splendor of their autumnal 
foliage, is illuminated by the soft rays of the autumn 
sun, what a marvel of golden pomp ! How the soul 
bathes in it, as in a flood, until, " dazzled and drunk 
with beauty,** it revels in an ecstasy of delight in which 
it would gladly stay forever. 

Some of our commonest shrubs and plants of the 
woods and fields are among the most brilliant of au- 
tumn*s children. The dogwood is as beautiful in its 
full dress as when covered with its profusion of white 
calixed flowers, in the spring. It early turns a deep In- 
dian red, and retains its color a long time. This shrub 
and the common sumach are worthy a more conspic- 
uous place in ornamental grounds than many more 
cherished foreign plants. The latter is beautiful in sum- 
mer, from its cones of dark red fruit, crowning the 
rounded summit, and showing among the green leaves 
like the flowers of the horse-chestnut. But its greatest 
beauty is in autumn. It commences its display early, 
and deepens daily, for a fortnight, into a brighter scar- 
let, until the whole plant glows like fire, conspicuous 
among the surrounding foliage as is the scarlet tanager 
among the birds. It fairly illuminates the landscape. 

A few of the shrubs assume the royal purple. As the 
autumn livery of plants is in this countfy one of their 
chiefest beauties, I would select, for the lawn and arbo- 
retum, as much with reference to this quality as to 
foliage or bloom at other seasons, and plant with these 
contrasts in view. 

It is noticeable that many trees of foreign origin, such 
as the peach — which comes to us from a warmer clime 
— and the cultivated pear and apple, among fruits, re- 


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tain their greenness much longer than the denizens of our 
native woods. 

The autumn of 1864 was worthy of note for its uncom- 
mon succession of beauty. A few glowing tints began to 
appear, chiefly in the maples, about the 15th of Septem* 
ber, through New York and Michigan. The change made 
very gradual progress. By the middle of October noth- * 
ing could surpass the splendor of the woodlands ; the 
maples in their very ripeness, and the oaks beginning to 
color. The landscape resembled a parterre of flowers, 
exhibiting on the grandest scale all the variety and glow 
of a flower garden or a conservatory. The ashes and 
hickories had then mostly dropped their leaves, as had 
some of the maples. From the loth to the i8th a few 
sharp frosts occurred, which hastened the maturity. 
On the morning of the latter, which brought ice, as the 
rays of a bright sun struck the exposed side of the trees, 
though the air was still, the leaves began to fall, in 
showers, like a snow-storm, covering the ground on that 
side. An hour or two afterwards the whole surface un- 
derneath the hickories, on my lawn, was carpeted with 
the yellow leaves, and they had ceased to fall. On the 
30th of October I note that most of the oaks are still 
brilliant, but others have become brown, and the glory is 
fast fading. 

Since nature, at this season, wears so smiling a face, 
and prepares with such gayety for the long sleep of win- 

** What is there saddening in the autumn leaves ? " 

Why should man repine, as though these were only signs 
of approaching death ? 

The season in which we luxuriate in green leaves and 
flowers is, in this latitude, indeed short. Scarcely more 


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than three months pass from the period of full foliage 
to the commencement of nature's harvest. We are there- 
fore necessitated to make the most of the latter season, 
and to enjoy heartily its peculiar charms, which no other 
land possesses so fully. 

And what a season it is for enjoyment ! When nature 
is assuming her many-colored robe the fervid heats of 
summer are past, and we no longer seek refuge from 
them in the seclusion of shade and rest. Our more ac- 
tive energies are called forth. We live, with comfort and 
increased pleasure, in the open air. A softened serenity 
prevails over the landscape, in harmony with nature's 
ripened loveliness, interrupted by occasional storms and 
frosty nights, but culminating to its full proportion in the 
glorious Indian summer of our climate. 

All summer long the leaves have been imbibing the 
warm sunshine, at the last to render back the gift in 
one collected and effulgent glow ; as if each leaf were a 
prism, and refracted the rays it has been so long absorb- 
ing, into their primitive colors. The dolphin, dying, 
shines in brightest hues ; the dying swan — as poets tell 
— sings its sweetest song. So the dying day, whose rays 
have been colorless in the concentrated light, now gilds 
the whole horizon with its lately imprisoned hues. 

At other seasons Nature displays her wealth of beauty 
in diversified forms ; she now luxuriates in color. Her 
prevailing green is suited to the fiery glow of a summer 
sun ; the more gorgeous tints to the softer light of au- 

Not only at this season does Nature delight to paint 
the trees, her crowning glories ; she wantons in color, 
also, in the flowers and fruits. In the latter the green 
of their unripened summer is exchanged for the bright- 


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ened hues of maturity, that so attract the eye in the or- 
chards and gardens. In the flowers of the autumn fields 
she displays, in larger masses than during the earlier 
months, her taste for colors. 

Some of the most conspicuous of these are noticed in 
the lines of Bryant : 

" On the bill the golden-rod, and the aster in the wood, 
And the yellow sunflower by the brook, in autumn beauty stood.*' 

Thus is Nature ever in harmony. 

If I were a painter, I would take the woods of autumn 
for my study. With pencil dipped in all the hues of 
the rainbow, and with simple truth to nature, such land- 
scapes should glow upon my canvas as Rubens or Salva- 
tor Rosa never dreamed of. 

If I were a poet, my glowing words should describe 
the woods in autumn. Dewy Iris, as she descends to cut 
the golden • thread of the year, should hover over my 
page, wafting a thousand colors from her wings.^ The 
lady of my love should not blend with the rose the cold 
contrast of the lily, but rather be compared with the 
maple for grace, and like it, should charm with the bloom 
and perfection of ripened loveliness. 

When comes my time to fall, may it be in the mellow 
autumn of the year, and of life. When the frosts of age 
have served to deepen whatever is bright and genial in 
my nature, but before my leaf has become dry, and 
rustles mournfully in the wild winds of winter. 

♦ Virg. iEneid, B. 4. 


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J UN 16 1943 






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